British Airways CEO Alex Cruz steps out as the worst crisis in aviation history unfolds

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Sean Doyle, CEO of Irish airline Aer Lingus, which is also owned by IAG, will become CEO of British Airways with immediate effect and will also succeed Cruz as chairman after a transition period, IAG (ICAGY) said Monday in a statement. Doyle worked at British Airways for two decades before taking over as CEO of Aer Lingus almost two years ago.

Donal Moriarty, chief executive officer of Aer Lingus, will become interim CEO while waiting for a permanent replacement to be found, IAG said. Its stock fell as much as 2% in London on Monday before cutting some losses.

Major airlines, including British Airways, have cut thousands of jobs and downsized their fleets in hopes that international air travel will not recover to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024. Low cost carrier EasyJet (ESYJY)said last week he expected to suffer his first annual loss in a 25-year history.

“Sean Doyle will have his work cut out for him to make immediate progress as British Airways faces the toughest challenge in its history as demand for international travel plummets and quarantine restrictions continue to restrict bookings.” Susannah Streeter, senior market analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said Monday in a research note.

British Airways warned in April that it may have to cut as many as 12,000 jobs, but has since said around 10,000 employees – more than a fifth of its workforce – will leave the company, the majority through voluntary layoff. The carrier is abandoning its entire Boeing 747 fleet four years ahead of schedule. Last month, IAG shareholders, including Qatar Airways, approved a $ 3.3 billion capital increase to help the group weather the storm.

“We are going through the worst crisis in our industry and I have no doubts that these internal promotions will allow IAG to be well placed to emerge in a position of strength,” IAG CEO Luis Gallego said in a statement Monday.

Gallego thanked Cruz for working “tirelessly to modernize” IAG’s flagship transporter. “He drove the airline through a particularly demanding period and made restructuring agreements with the vast majority of the employees,” he added. Cruz, who started his career at American Airlines (AAL), became CEO of British Airways in April 2016.

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