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British Airways boss to stand down after 15 years in charge

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
International Airlines Group (IAG) chief executive Willie Walsh. Photo: PA

The chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG) Willie Walsh has announced plans to stand down.

IAG (IAG.L) said on Thursday Walsh had decided to retire as chief executive of the group, formed from the merger of British Airways (BA) and Spanish airline Iberia in 2010.

Walsh, a former BA and Aer Lingus chief executive, will be replaced by Iberia’s current chief executive Luis Gallego. Gallego’s replacement at the Spanish flag carrier airline will be announced “in due course.”

Walsh will stand down from his role and the board of IAG on 26 March, and retire on 30 June, according to IAG.

IAG shares rose after the announcement in early trading on Thursday morning, up 1.2% on the previous day.

READ MORE: IAG profits hit by BA pilots’ strike

Antonio Vázquez, IAG chairman, said: "Willie has led the merger and successful integration of British Airways and Iberia to form IAG.  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.”

Walsh said: "It has been a privilege to have been instrumental in the creation and development of 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.”

John Strickland, an aviation consultant, tweeted that Walsh had a “phenomenal track record” turning around Aer Lingus and BA and making IAG a “real success.”

It comes after a difficult year for IAG. It announced in late October its profits had slid after an unprecedented BA pilot strike forced it to ground 1,700 flights.

Its underlying profits had dropped 6.9% in the third quarter of last year to €1.43bn (£1.23bn).

The announcement was not entirely unexpected, as Walsh had said after the results came out in October he was “much closer to retirement” than a year earlier.

“I’m 58 and I will not be in this job when I’m 60,” he said at the time.