British Airways CEO Alex Cruz is out as 'worst crisis' in aviation history rolls on

Posted October 12, 2020 6:49 a.m. EDT

— Alex Cruz is stepping down as chairman and chief executive of British Airways as its owner, International Airlines Group (IAG), reshuffles its top management to tackle the worst crisis in aviation history.

Sean Doyle, the CEO of Irish airline Aer Lingus, which is also owned by IAG, will become chief executive at British Airways with immediate effect and also take over from Cruz as chairman after a transition period, IAG said in a statement on Monday. Doyle worked at British Airways for two decades before moving to head Aer Lingus nearly two years ago.

Donal Moriarty, the chief corporate affairs officer at Aer Lingus, will become interim CEO while a permanent replacement is found, IAG said. Its stock fell as much as 2% in London on Monday before paring back some losses.

Major airlines, including British Airways, have cut thousands of jobs and trimmed their fleets in the expectation that international air travel won't recover to the level it was at before the pandemic hit until at least 2024. Low cost carrier EasyJet said last week that it expects to suffer its first annual loss in its 25-year history.

"Sean Doyle will have his work cut out to make immediate progress given that British Airways is facing the toughest challenge in its history as demand for international travel has plummeted and quarantine restrictions continue to constrain bookings," Susannah Streeter, a senior market analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said in a research note on Monday.

British Airways is cutting up to 12,000 jobs, more than a quarter of its workforce, and is retiring its entire fleet of Boeing 747s four years ahead of schedule. Last month, IAG's shareholders, including Qatar Airways, approved a $3.3 billion capital raise to help the group weather the storm.

"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," IAG CEO Luis Gallego said in a statement on Monday.

Gallego thanked Cruz for working "tirelessly to modernise" IAG's flagship carrier. "He has led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees," he added. Cruz, who began his career at American Airlines, became British Airways CEO in April 2016.

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