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BA boss Alex Cruz steps down as industry faces ‘worst crisis’

Written by on 12 October 2020

British Airways (BA) chief executive Alex Cruz is stepping down from the role with immediate effect, owner International Airlines Group (IAG) has said.

IAG boss Luis Gallego said the shake-up came as the company navigated “the worst crisis faced in our industry” – which has seen demand crushed by the coronavirus crisis and thousands of jobs axed.

BA’s new chief executive will be Sean Doyle, who is being brought in from Irish carrier Aer Lingus – also part of IAG.

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Walsh: ‘It’s going to involve pain for everybody’

It was one of a series of management changes announced on Monday by Mr Gallego, who took over as IAG chief executive a month ago after the retirement of Willie Walsh.

Mr Gallego said: “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.”

He said Mr Cruz had “worked tirelessly to modernise the airline”, adding that he had also “led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees”.

Mr Doyle, BA’s new boss, previously worked at the airline for 20 years before moving to head Aer Lingus two years ago.

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Mr Cruz will remain non-executive chairman of BA for a “transition period” before also handing over that role to Mr Doyle.

BA has been undergoing a painful restructuring as it counts the cost of the coronavirus crisis and slashes flight schedules.

Where jobs are being lost across the UK economy

Where jobs are being lost across the UK economy

Last month it revealed progress in its negotiations with unions over changes to pay and conditions as it battles to save costs.

But it also said a total of up to 13,000 were expected to lose their roles at the airline, with more than 8,000 having already gone.

BA’s handling of the restructuring drew accusations of a “despicable” fire-and-rehire approach, but Mr Cruz told MPs last month that it was on course to secure agreement with trade unions.

He also reiterated that the impact of the pandemic means it is “fighting for its survival”.

Sky’s coronavirus jobs tracker shows aviation has been the sector worst hit by the crisis with easyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair and Gatwick also among those making big cuts.

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Heathrow chief exec: PM needs to ‘get a grip’

Last week, Manchester Airports Group – owner of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports – announced plans to axe nearly 900 roles as the Treasury’s furlough scheme comes to an end.

The announcement of a government task force to look at using testing to try to reduce travellers’ quarantine periods received a lukewarm response, with no timeframe for a testing regime to be introduced.

Monthly passenger statistics published by Heathrow on Monday underlined the scale of the crisis, showing a decline of 5.5 million in numbers in September – or 82% – compared with a year earlier, to 1.2 million.

Mr Cruz had a tough period in charge of BA even before the pandemic struck, hit by strike action a year ago and a huge customer data breach in 2018 which saw it facing a fine of GBP183m.