British Airways CEO Alex Cruz to leave the airline immediately

2020 is being, well, 2020 again and here is the latest coming from the aviation world. The International Airlines Group has notified the stock exchanges and the media about Alex Cruz’s departure from the airline, amongst other senior management changes.

Here are all the senior management changes coming to International Airlines Group:

  • Alex Cruz, British Airways chairman and chief executive, is to step down as the 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.

Announcing the changes, IAG chief executive, Luis Gallego, said: “IAG has proved itself to be one of the world’s leading airline groups with a portfolio of successful companies. We’re navigating the worst crisis faced in our industry, and I’m confident these internal promotions will ensure IAG is well placed to emerge in a strong position.

The Curious Case of Alex Cruz

British Airways is a big operator around our neck of the wood, so obviously changes at the top impact this market as well. However, there is a whole round of thinking that makes me think this was long in the works. Firstly, the legacy of Alex Cruz.

Alex Cruz became British Airways chairman and chief executive in April 2016. He was previously chief executive of Vueling from 2009 when it merged with Clickair; an airline Alex founded in 2006. Alex began his career at American Airlines, where he worked for 10 years before undertaking various management consultancy roles in the airline and travel industry.

Since then, Alex has been looked at as the person who has pushed for the low-costification of the airline. Many passenger experience changes came, but the key one was about selling meals to EuroTraveller passengers, instead of keeping them complimentary. You do have to admit that the meals were considerably higher quality when bought though.

Alex, of course, got a lot of things wrong under his leadership, which might not be directly his doing, but the buck stopped there. British Airways had repeated meltdowns on their IT infrastructure and also had a data breach which cost the airline upwards of GBP 180 million in fines.

On the other hand, British Airways made their most promising upgrades as well under Alex Cruz, with the launch of the Club Suite, which is one of the most promising upgrades after years of Club World for British Airways. There were other new passenger and network initiatives launched under his leadership as well.

The new charge at IAG

Sean Doyle joined British Airways in 1998 undertaking various financial, strategy, commercial and alliance roles for the airline culminating in his appointment to the airline’s executive management committee in 2016 as director of network, fleet and alliances. Originally from Cork, he became Aer Lingus chief executive in January 2019.

Fernando Candela became LEVEL chief executive in September 2019. He was previously chief executive of Iberia Express for six years and, before that, director of planning and management control at Air Nostrum.

Donal Moriarty became Aer Lingus chief corporate affairs officer in November 2017. A qualified lawyer, he joined the airline in 2009 as its company secretary.

Bottomline

This might have been the writing on the wall for a while, ever since Alex was side-stepped and Iberia’s CEO got the job of heading the International Airline Group, a role traditionally offered to the British Airways CEO. Alex Cruz, of course, has had good times and bad times at British Airways, and it is now time for him to move on, although where would he go is yet to be seen, given there is a pandemic and airlines are shedding people rather than hiring right now.


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