General Industry

IAG CEO Willie Walsh To Step Down

By Dave Simpson
IAG CEO Willie Walsh To Step Down

It has been announced that International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Willie Walsh will step down in June and hand the reins of the group to Luis Gallego, who is currently the CEO of IAG's Iberia airline.

Walsh said in November that succession planning was under way as he intended to retire as chief executive within the next two years.

Walsh, a former pilot, has spent his career in the industry and has been instrumental in establishing IAG, which is also the parent company of Aer Lingus and British Airways among other airlines.

Walsh became CEO of British Airways in 2005 and oversaw its merger with Iberia in 2011 to form IAG.

Walsh and IAG chairman Antonio Vazquez said that Gallego is the right candidate to lead IAG in the next stage of its development.


"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," Walsh said in a statement.

Goodbody analyst Mark Simpson said that the appointment will mean little change in IAG's strategy and will be welcomed by investors.

Walsh had "fantastic success at building IAG but obviously promoting internally is seen as a positive. The market regards his successor well," Simpson said.

Standing Up To Unions And Cutting Costs

Walsh made his name standing up to unions and cutting costs first at Aer Lingus, where he became CEO in 2001, and then at British Airways, earning himself the nickname Slasher Walsh in an industry he once characterised as a "fight for survival".

It was at Aer Lingus where he formed the template for his strategy, benefitting from a front-row seat to the rapid expansion of budget rival Ryanair.


Walsh was much quicker than rival European flag carriers Air France-KLM and Lufthansa to embrace budget flying. IAG bought short-haul carrier Vueling in 2015 and set up long-haul low-cost carrier Level in 2017.

He also bought Aer Lingus in 2015, and IAG is currently in the process of a €1 billion deal to buy Spain's Air Europa.

IAG said that Walsh will step down from his role and the board of IAG on March 26 before retiring on June 30.

Gallego's successor at Iberia will be announced in due course, IAG said.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.