What Do You Think About Outgoing British Airways / IAG Boss Willie Walsh’s Time In Charge?

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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.

Bottom line

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?


  1. RB says

    Mr Walsh has successfully presided over the steady downward progress of British Airways.
    As a customer I am not impressed. As a shareholder…he has not made me rich!
    He obviously deserves a large bonus on his retirement for creating a flying club for his employees.

    • Chris says

      Initial IAG shares were about 2 pounds each they closed today at 6.64 so 3x increase in less than 10 years. Im sure there are better investments but they haven’t done bad.

      • Steve F says

        Mr Walsh and his team have simply followed the trend to the bottom in product and service. Even when the true LCCs have made no impact on Heathrow. BA seem compelled to push the boundaries of what they can get away with and still fill their aircraft. Their premium fares ex LHR are eye watering , but the product is average. Every now and then we get a premium product revamp only to see it paired back to save costs a short time later. Shareholder value and a relentless drive to save costs are Willie’s legacy

  2. Brian T says

    BA has went from a 5* Airline(Once) to a 3* Airline, that’s now on a par with Easyjet. Massive retirement payment for WW then!!!

  3. Angela Trevelyan says

    I flew for nearly 2decades on VC10’s,B707,Concorde,Tristars&B747’s as a Senior Nursing Sister In Paediatrics & General assigned to the Cabin Crew from 1974.
    Lord King & Lord Colin Marshall were outstanding in making BA the worlds favourite airline.
    Lord Colin Marshall would fly on our aircraft and spend much time speaking to Cabin crew to seek out improvements.
    I highly recommend future CEO’s of BA follow suit.
    BA needs to be much improved as it is a shadow of its former self in my day.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Angela,

      That must have been a fascinating part of your career!

      You are absolutely right as well – experiencing the product and genuinely listening to employees and customers can offer management so much insight into where attention needs to be focused and how things might be improved.

  4. Iris says

    As a previously very loyal customer, I am very disappointed with British Airways. I flew First Class recently, a most disappointing experience. They have lost the excellent professional staff and made BA a three star airline. Cruz should go with him, he has ruined the reputation of BA.

  5. josephine M jose says

    I totally disagree with all statements above
    willie walsh and his crew of directors have totally ruined british airways, today flying with them is like flying with the cheapie airlines

    You are punished for the type of ticket you buy, and made like naughtly children to stand at the back of the queue to get on the aircraft. Crazy having three different types of tickets for one trip, massive discrimination of passengers.

    The planes when landing at international airports now the planes are way way from the terminal building, using the bus to get you to the terminal building – they say due to the arms at the terminal being busy – this is rubbish – this is because they have to pay more

    =Our first trip with them in 1994 to dubai was amazing – far better experience than any other airline today – cocktails, great food and wine, amazing service – we are supposed to be getting better – but BA has gone totally to the bottom of the pile. The food is dreadful, the service even worse, and that scuffie old out of date uniform worn by very worn out seen better days staff = never moved with the times

    He /and Cruxhas ruined their amazing reputation world wide – not worth a penny in bonus

    • Robert Patterson says

      Josephine, I’m a little confused by your post. I think you’ll find just everybody agrees with you!

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