UK-Spanish airline giant IAG says CEO Willie Walsh retiring

LONDON (AFP) – British airline giant IAG said yesterday that chief executive Willie Walsh has decided to quit and will be replaced by Luis Gallego, who is currently head of Spanish division Iberia. “International Airlines Group (IAG) announces that Willie Walsh has decided to retire as chief executive,” the British Airways parent company said in a statement, adding he will leave the role on March 26 and retire on June 30.

“It has been a privilege to have been instrumental in the creation and development of IAG,” Walsh said. “I have had the pleasure of working with many exceptional people over the past 15 years at British Airways and at IAG. “Luis has been a core member of the team and has shown true leadership over the years and I have no doubt he will be a great CEO of IAG.”

The announcement brings down the curtain on Walsh’s 15-year career with the group, during which time he oversaw the 2011 merger of British Airways with Iberia to form IAG – which has since expanded to include Aer Lingus, Level and Vueling. More recently however, British Airways suffered major disruption last September when for the first time in its 100-year history pilots employed by the airline went on strike in a long-running pay dispute. “Willie has led the merger and successful integration of British Airways and Iberia to form IAG,” added Chairman Antonio Vazquez in yesterday’s statement.

“Under Willie’s leadership IAG has become one of the leading global airline groups.

“Willie has been the main driver of this unique idea that is IAG. I hugely admire his commitment, strong leadership and clear vision, always ready to take on whatever challenges lay ahead of him.”

Gallego’s replacement will be announced in due course, the London-listed company noted. “It has been a great pleasure to work with Willie over the last seven years,” Gallego said. “It is a huge honour to lead this great company. It is an exciting time at IAG and I am confident that we can build on the strong foundations created by Willie”.