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Alex Cruz replaced as British Airways CEO

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IAG, the parent company of British Airways, has just released a statement to the Stock Exchange.

Alex Cruz British Airways CEO

To quote:

“Alex Cruz, British Airways chairman and chief executive, is to step down as chief executive and remain the airline’s non-executive chairman.

Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus chairman and chief executive, will become the new chief executive of British Airways and take over as chairman after a transition period.

Fernando Candela, LEVEL chief executive, is joining the Group’s management committee in a new role of chief transformation officer.

At Aer Lingus, Donal Moriarty, currently the airline’s chief corporate affairs officer, will become interim chief executive. A permanent appointment will be announced in due course.”

To be honest, I thought that Alex might resign after being passed over for the role of IAG Chief Executive. This role went to the head of Iberia, Luis Gallego, even though BA is by far the bigger business. This does not look like a resignation though.

This is what Alex had to say in an email to staff:

“Hi everyone

The last few years have been incredible at British Airways. From delivering record profits, to securing new record investment for our customers and celebrating our centenary, I have been blessed to work with and learn from the very best team in the world.

Earlier in the year, I began to consider my professional life after BA but Covid-19 hit all of us hard. We have signed agreements with the majority of our workforce’s representatives, and we have supported IAG in raising additional capital. The next few years will be intense, but BA is resilient and will recover as part of IAG performing well for its shareholders, its customers, its employees, and for our climate. 

This is the right time for me to depart as your Chief Executive and “pass the baton” onto Sean Doyle. I have known and worked with Sean for many years and I cannot think of anyone better suited to drive BA through the recovery cycle and beyond. I have agreed with Luis Gallego, IAG’s chief executive, to stay on as Chairman of British Airways to support Sean during this difficult period.

Keep strong, Alex.”

The email also included a message from Sean:

“I am delighted to be given the opportunity to come back and join British Airways as CEO.  

I joined BA in 1998 as a finance analyst and spent 20 years in a range of roles across the airline. When I left for Aer Lingus in 2018, none of us would have anticipated the crisis we are now facing. We will need to be resilient and work together as one team to weather the many challenges ahead of us.

I would like to thank Alex for his leadership over the last 5 years, and look forward to working with him in his new capacity as Chairman of British Airways.

Regards, Sean.”

What will Alex Cruz’s legacy be?

Sean Doyle has done a good job at Aer Lingus, although most of the changes on his watch were already in progress when he joined. The airline has made massive strides since IAG bought it. That said …. Covid is potentially showing up the weakness in the strategy, with a huge number of long haul aircraft on order and potentially no customers to fly in them.

Alex hasn’t had an easy ride. The BA IT meltdowns and data breach were not his finest hour. However, people who knew Alex spoke well of him, and he was always very personable and pleasant to me whenever we met. People also tend to ignore his track record, including his role as the founder of Clickair in Spain.

Alex Cruz fired by British Airways

Even those people who saw British Airways as undertaking a ‘race to the bottom’ under his tenure tend to ignore the facts.

Under Cruz we saw the launch of Club Suite – probably the best business class seat of any European airline – plus the First Wing at Heathrow, Club Europe added to domestic routes and the Do&Co catering contract signed. There was also substantial investment in renewing the long haul fleet.

At the other end of the plane, I have recently seen European flights selling for as little as £14 one way. This is a figure which would have been unthinkable when Cruz joined.

With Luis Gallego keen to make his mark at IAG, he will want his own team in place. It seems Alex is not to be part of that.

PS. If you were following @alexcruzmaybe on Twitter, you need to retune to @seandoylemaybe …..

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Comments (60)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Ian says:

    No loss.

  • memesweeper says:

    Now Willy Walsh is gone, so is his yes man. Interesting, but not necessarily good for the consumer, times ahead. Note the Avios-for-everything initiatives, like RFS on long haul, were something Cruz was very keen on… we might see some changes to the opportunities to spend points.

  • Ashic Mahtab says:

    Why do the top roles always seem to go to people from low cost / smaller airlines?

    • Nick says:

      Sean worked at BA for 18 years before moving to Lingus. He’s more BA than anything else.

  • marcw says:

    To me it looks like he’s been fired – this does not look like a voluntary departure. IAG, and particularly BAs 3Q results are going to be a massive disaster, compared to LH and AF-KLM.

    • Rhys says:

      Can Alex really be held responsible for the Government’s lack of interest in bailing airlines out?!

      • BuildTheWall says:

        It was BA that chose to not get a bailout. A bailout would’ve come with restrictions on pay cuts or job cuts.

        • Lady London says:

          And note that the government learned, because the new jobs subsidy scheme that follows the current one, has in its rules that the employer cant put employees on notice of redundancy if they claim under it.

    • Alex W says:

      Surely someone that has been fired would not be staying on as Chairman.

      • Lady London says:

        possible… sometimes these things are done in stages.

        Being fired is different depending how high you are.

    • Opus says:

      Because other countries have significantly better testing regimes than the U.K.? Like the handling of Covid in the U.K. is only second worst to the US. Let me any CEO try and navigate that. Also how do we know their numbers are going to be worse? Are you just going off how you feel?

      • marcw says:

        No, it’s based on what big bosses of BA, LH and AF-KLM have leaked in the past 6 weeks, how much their airlines are losing each day/week/90min.
        Well, do you know what non-refundable means? What is all this nonsense about requesting a BAs FTV if you do not wish to travel – too generous IMHO (it’s ok if you booked pre-March 2020, let’s say, but if you booked last week? You already know about corona). No other airline is being as generous. Let insurance pay for it, not airlines.

        • Lady London says:

          They’ve done the numbers and FTV’s work for them. BA is big enough and cash rich enough to play the long game

        • Opus says:

          I don’t think that’s it. FTV helps with booking confidence IMO. I think that LH has been refunding like crazy at the moment. I think they’ve now reached 3 billion, also how much of their cost restructuring is enough? LH is also significantly hand tied because of the HUGE bail out they took. They still have so many people employed. Still over 100K I believe (as a group). Bear in mind IAG I think was able to achieve the second highest cost reduction (proportionally) only beaten by Ryanair if I’m not mistaken. I think BA and IAG now have the cash and cost base for the long run. Other airlines can’t make deep cuts if necessary because they’ve taken huge bail outs

          • marcw says:

            It’s not all about cost cutting. It’s also about increasing cash income and promoting revenue. FTV are not there for booking confidence: people are using it for speculative booking. Meaning, actual people travelling are less and less. It’s far better for BA if they sell 55% o seats, but only 35% travel (but 55% revenue), than sell 55% seats and then only 35% travel, but only 35% revenue because people took FTV. Let people claim from travel insurance.

      • Andrew says:

        The “UK” doesn’t have a single testing regime. Haven’t you wondered why Ms Sturgeon on the TV quite so often?

        It’s different for the 4 nations. Last week Scotland was only using a third of their testing capacity of 40,000 a day.

        • Opus says:

          Yes, and that’s part of the problem. Rewind a few weeks back with the travel corridor issue in England and Wales where one country had different regulations from another

  • Nick says:

    The most interesting part (to me at least) is that BA is going back to having accountants running the airline. Expect even tighter control on cost and investment controlled tighter than ever.

    Sean is a lovely guy and will transform/rebuild relations in a way Alex never could. But he’s very much ‘accountant who made it to the top’ in mentality, just like Steve Gunning and Keith Williams.

    • BuildTheWall says:

      Very few ‘technical experts’ are also good at management and financial matters.
      An accountant wouldn’t have approved the Concorde (and its losses).

    • JAXBA says:

      Yet it was under Keith Williams that ‘To Fly, To Serve’ was reintroduced and there was a glimmer of hope for internal morale. He was an accountant, yes, but he seemed to understand the value of the brand.

      • Blenz101 says:

        His first action should surely to order that hot food be reinstated on LH flying at the very least.

  • Spaghetti Town says:

    If not for Cruz club world may of continued to be a 2-4-2 product

  • Michael C says:

    Maybe he forgot to submit his UK residence application?

  • Alex M says:

    Adios Alex, you’ll be missed.
    Alex M.

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