The new CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG), Luis Gallego, has appointed Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle as the CEO of British Airways (BA), replacing Alex Cruz with immediate effect.
Doyle's appointment was one of a number of management changes announced by the Anglo-Spanish airlines group and marks a return to BA for Doyle, who worked as BA's director of network, fleet and alliances before leaving for Aer Lingus in 2019.
Cruz had been BA boss since 2016 and will stay on as its non-executive chairman for a transition period, IAG said.
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Doyle faces a huge challenge at BA, which, like all airlines, is struggling as a result of low levels of flying due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, IAG raised €2.7 billion to reduce its debt and help it survive the pandemic.
"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," Gallego said in a statement.
Davy analyst Stephen Furlong said that it is not a surprise that Gallego has moved quickly to make the changes, calling him "decisive" and noting that his background is of leading significant restructuring at IAG's Iberia Express and Iberia.
The last few months have been tough for Cruz, who was tasked with driving through 13,000 job cuts at BA, making him a frequent target of trade union hostility.
"I suspect they wanted a newer face going forward with BA," Furlong said, adding that Doyle had proved himself at Aer Lingus, which went into the coronavirus crisis as IAG's number one performing airline.
Cruz's remit following his appointment was to cut costs at BA so it could better compete with low-cost rivals, which did not always endear him to staff or passengers.
Gallego, formerly boss of Iberia, pipped Cruz to the IAG top job earlier this year, replacing Willie Walsh.
Gallego and Cruz previously worked together at Spanish airline Vueling, which is now also owned by IAG.
Analysts suggested that a number of high-profile blunders at BA under Cruz, including a data breach for which it was fined $230 million in 2019 and an IT failure in 2017 which left tens of thousands of passengers stranded, would not have helped his cause.
Cruz was also at the helm last year when BA pilots went on strike for the first time, costing the airline more than €137 million.
IAG said that Fernando Candela, CEO of its airline Level, will take on the new role of group chief transformation officer.
Aer Lingus Interim CEO
The group named Aer Lingus' Donal Moriarty as interim the CEO of the Irish carrier and said that a permanent replacement will be announced in due course.