International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways and Iberia, has announced that its chief executive Willie Walsh will stand down from the role in March.
The chief executive of Iberia, Luis Gallego, will succeed Walsh when he quits as CEO on 26 March, a decision he announced in late October 2019 that he would make within two years.
Walsh will retire fully from IAG – which also owns the Irish airline Aer Lingus and other budget carriers, including Spain’s Vueling – on 30 June, after 15 years at BA.
Walsh joined Aer Lingus in 1979 as a cadet pilot and became chief executive in 2001. At the then-government-controlled airline he was known as “Slasher” Walsh for cutting 2,500 jobs, and turning the loss-making carrier around. Four years later he was named boss of BA, and in 2011 led the merger of the airline with Spain’s Iberia to create IAG. He then became chief executive of the group.
Gallego started his airline career in 1997 with the Spanish regional carrier Air Nostrum. He has been chief executive of Iberia since 2014.
Last year BA suffered one of the most damaging industrial disputes in its history, which included two days of strikes by pilots in September and the cancellation of 2,325 flights, which cost the carrier £121m.
Pilots voted to settle the dispute over pay and conditions in mid-December.
Antonio Vázquez, the IAG chairman, said: “Willie has led the merger and successful integration of British Airways and Iberia to form IAG. Under Willie’s leadership IAG has become one of the leading global airline groups.”
Walsh said: “It has been a privilege to have been instrumental in the creation and development of IAG.”