British Airways chief Cruz steps down in shakeup at IAG
INTERNATIONAL - British Airways Chief Executive Officer Alex Cruz is being replaced, just weeks after fellow Spaniard Luis Gallego took over as head of parent company IAG SA.
Sean Doyle, who has been running BA’s Irish sister-carrier Aer Lingus, will take on the CEO role immediately and also succeed Cruz as the U.K. airline’s chairman after a transitional period, IAG said in a statement Monday.
Cruz, 54, is leaving after being passed over in January for the top job at IAG. He joined the London-based group when it bought out Vueling, the Barcelona-based discount carrier he headed, in 2012, and went on to become BA CEO four years later.
Initially seen as the replacement for longtime IAG chief Willie Walsh, Cruz was attacked over the extent of cost reductions and service changes at BA. Pilots, former employees and customers suggested the unit’s image as a premium carrier was being tarnished, even as Walsh, who retired last month, kept up pressure for deeper cutbacks.
The Spanish executive this year clashed with unions and U.K. politicians over plans to slash as many as 12,000 jobs as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out demand for travel.
“Cruz faced a difficult job trying to balance much-needed cost cuts, for which he got a lot of criticism,” said John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting. “But he did lead investment in fleet and upgrading the long-haul business class, the results of which would have been visible had it not been for the pandemic.”
The shakeup marks Gallego’s first major act since taking the helm at IAG, a move that was delayed for several months as Walsh stayed on through the start of the health crisis.
Doyle, 49, has been CEO of Aer Lingus for less than two years. Before that, he spent 20 years at British Airways, rising through finance and strategy roles to join the executive and management committee in 2016.
Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Donal Moriarty will become interim CEO of Aer Lingus, with a permanent appointment to be announced in due course.
In another change, Fernando Candela, CEO of IAG’s low-cost arm Level, joins the group’s management committee as chief transformation officer, a new role.
Shares of IAG traded 1.6% lower as of 10:11 a.m. in London, taking their decline this year to 75%.