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Virus-blighted British Airways announces shock CEO departure

AFP
British Airways announced yesterday that CEO Alex Cruz is stepping down "with immediate effect" but gave no reason for his unexpected departure.
AFP
Virus-blighted British Airways announces shock CEO departure
Reuters

British Airways aircraft are seen on the tarmac of London’s Heathrow Airport.

British Airways, which is slashing thousands of jobs as coronavirus decimates demand for air travel, announced yesterday that CEO Alex Cruz is stepping down “with immediate effect” but gave no reason for his unexpected departure.

Parent group IAG added in a statement that the Spanish businessman, who had been BA chief executive for 4-1/2 years, will be replaced by its Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle.

New IAG CEO Luis Gallego, a fellow Spaniard who took the reins from Willie Walsh just last month, said the company’s management reshuffle was aimed at emerging stronger from the health crisis.

“We’re navigating the worst crisis faced in our industry and I’m confident ... IAG is well placed to emerge in a strong position,” Gallego said.

“I want to thank Alex for all that he has done at British Airways. He worked tirelessly to modernize the airline. He has led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees.”

Faced with the global travel crisis, IAG shares have plummeted by a staggering 75 percent since the start of the year — making it the worst performer listed on London’s FTSE 100 index.

“British Airways is going to need a new pair of wings if it is to fly through the pandemic in one piece. The airline is now getting new leadership in the form of Sean Doyle,” said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the nature of the exit of Cruz, who has overseen a massive cost-slashing drive and will remain non-executive chairman.

British Airways is in the process of axing 13,000 jobs or about one third of its workforce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is currently operating about one quarter of its normal schedule.

BA pilots had voted in July to accept a package, including job and pay cuts, aimed at avoiding even more redundancies.

British pilots’ union BALPA welcomed the news. “Mr Cruz has been in the departure lounge for some time so this is no surprise. He was given a remit to cut costs and found it impossible to do that without alienating BA passengers and staff alike,” said BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton.

Cruz meanwhile gave no comment on his shock exit.

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