British Airways replaces CEO amid industry's 'worst crisis' as coronavirus pandemic continues

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British Airways has appointed a new leader to steer its operations as the coronavirus pandemic continues to decimate commercial aviation at large.

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A spokesperson for parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) confirmed to FOX Business on Monday that British Airways chairman and chief executive Alex Cruz would be immediately replaced by Sean Doyle, who holds the same positions at IAG-owned Aer Lingus. Doyle’s predecessor will remain as the nonexecutive chairman during an unspecified transition period, The Associated Press reports.

Commenting on the change, IAG CEO Luis Gallego thanked Cruz for his years of hard work as CEO and voiced his faith in Doyle’s abilities as the airline industry continues to weather the “worst crisis” it has faced to date.

Queen Elizabeth II escorted by Alex Cruz CEO on a visit to the British Airways headquarters to mark their centenary year at Heathrow Airport on May 23, 2019, in London, England. (Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

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“IAG has proved itself to be one of the world’s leading airline groups with a portfolio of successful companies. 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 shared with FOX Business.

"I want to thank Alex for all that he has done at British Airways. He worked tirelessly to modernize the airline in the years leading up to the celebration of its 100th anniversary,” he went on. “Since then, he has led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees.”

Retired British Airways Boeing 747-400 parked at Cotsworld Airport in Kemble, England, in this Oct. 11, 2020 photo. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

“Sean Doyle has extensive experience at British Airways having worked there for 20 years before moving to head Aer Lingus nearly two years ago where he has done an excellent job,” Gallego praised. “I am confident that will continue at British Airways.”

Cruz has served as the CEO of British Airways, the flag-carrying airline of the U.K., since April 2016; Doyle signed on as Aer Lingus' chief executive in January 2019.

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British Airways CEO Alex Cruz speaks to members of staff at the British Airways Maintenance Centre (BAMC) at Cardiff Airport on February 21, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Geoff Caddick – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Shares of IAG, which also counts Iberia, Level and Vueling airlines of Spain as members, rose 0.3% by early afternoon in London after falling as much as 5.8% in early trading.

According to the Associated Press, British Airways' passenger traffic plunged 95% from a year prior in the second quarter, leading to a first-half operating loss of $4.77 billion.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
ICAGYINTERNATIONAL CONSOLIDATED AIRLINES GROUP SA2.73-0.04-1.44%

In September, Cruz told a U.K. House of Commons committee that the airline was "fighting for our own survival,” arguing that there was unfortunately no alternative to cutting jobs amid the ongoing outbreak.

The Associated Press reports that unions have blasted Cruz’ handling of 12,000 job cuts relating to the pandemic and accused the carrier of threatening staffers with a “fire and rehire” plan, through which employees would be rehired on downgraded terms if they did not agree to the airline’s cost-cutting measures.

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British airlines have been particularly hard hit as the pandemic continues, as people traveling from most countries must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, eliminating most business and holiday travel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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