Big news coming from British Airways / IAG this morning as the company has announced the immediate departure of Alex Cruz from the CEO position, to be replaced by Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle.

Mr. Cruz will remain at British Airways as Non-Executive Chairman, a rather unglamorous position for someone who previously held the CEO title.

The news were announced by IAG Chief Executive Luis Gallego after just a month in the job following the retirement of Willie Walsh. Gallego apparently wants to clean house at IAG and initiated a big management shakeup.

Sean Doyle has held the CEO position at Aer Lingus for the past two years but has extensive experience at British Airways, having worked there for 20 years before moving to head Aer Lingus.

You can access the IAG Press Release here.

International Airlines Group (IAG) is today announcing changes to its senior management team with immediate effect

• 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.

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.

“I want to thank Alex for all that he has done at British Airways. He worked tirelessly to modernise the airline in the years leading up to the celebration of its 100th anniversary. Since then, he has led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees. …

So far no statement is to be found anywhere by Alex Cruz himself, the only announcement came from IAG and Luis Gallego. You can place a certain bet that this isn’t a voluntary departure.

I’m surprised Alex Cruz lasted as long as he did after everything that happened under his watch.

This is the entire press release:

Download (PDF, 85KB)

Alex Cruz has been a controversial CEO during his reign at British Airways. Under his helm the airline made lots of unpopular cutbacks especially in onboard service as well putting the thumb on it’s labor force, first with re-arranging crew contracts and most recently with large scale layoffs (though pretty much every airline has to lay off staff in the current business climate so I wouldn’t pin this on Mr. Cruz).

British Airways also had lots of scandals including IT meltdowns in 2017 and 2019 that left over a hundred thousand people stranded and disrupted travel plans worldwide. There have also been several high profile data leaks, some with pending litigation.

Conclusion

So far Alex Cruz could be nicknamed “Teflon” because none of these issues have cost him his job but apparently IAG’s new Chief Executive has decided to put his foot down right in the early stages of his new position. Out with the old, in with the new. With IAG being such a large company they have lots of internal talent and don’t really need to recruit from outside which has many advantages.

Sean Doyle is a British Airways veteran of 20 years and I’m sure he has more sensibilities for the company than Mr. Cruz. I’m also sure he would command a lot more respect among employees having spend so much time at the company. Of course that doesn’t mean there won’t be tough decisions ahead especially in the current environment.

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