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Unless you happen to be living under a rock (or are enjoying a self-imposed news blackout), you probably heard yesterday that Willie Walsh, the CEO of British Airways‘ parent company IAG, has announced his retirement. Walsh will stand down from the role and from the Board of IAG on 26 March 2020 and will fully retire on 30 June 2020. He will be replaced by Luis Gallego, currently the CEO of IAG’s other main airline, Iberia.
As you would expect, IAG Chairman Antonio Vázquez had some fulsome praise for Walsh:
“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. I hugely admire his commitment, strong leadership and clear vision, always ready to take on whatever challenges lay ahead of him. I am deeply respectful of what he has achieved as CEO of this Group, of his sense of fairness, his transparency and his capacity to integrate people regardless of nationalities or backgrounds.”
I’m more interested though in what InsideFlyer readers – perhaps some of BA’s most frequent flyers – think about Walsh’s tenure.
It’s hard to argue that his time as CEO of British Airways and then IAG hasn’t been a success from a commercial perspective (in a challenging and rapidly evolving market), but he’s also overseen a lot of controversial changes over the years and there’s been a significant hit to BA’s reputation in particular.
From a personal perspective, I certainly don’t avoid flying with BA, but never actively seek it out either these days. For short haul flights, I prefer the convenience of flying direct from Leeds Bradford and Manchester (both are easy for me to get to). For long haul, I tend to have a lot of flexibility, so prefer to try more luxurious/interesting airlines if flying Business and First Class, or whatever is cheapest/most convenient when flying Economy.
That said, the new Club Suite is an impressive step up from the old Club World seats and there have been some other positive changes to BA’s long haul Business Class service too. I’ve also enjoyed quite a few flights in Iberia Business Class, though it’s unlikely to win many awards.
Willie Walsh has been at the top for ~15 years (first as CEO of British Airways from 2005 and then of IAG from 2011) – how has your view of British Airways changed over that time?