With immediate effect Alex Cruz has been removed from the position of CEO of British Airways, but staying on as Non-Executive Chairman.
Cruz is replaced by Sean Doyle who is currently the CEO of Aer Lingus, which is another subsidiary company of International Airlines Group (IAG), and thus a sister company to British Airways.
According to IAG's press statement released this morning:
Alex Cruz, British Airways chairman and chief executive, is to step down as chief executive and remain the airline’s non-executive chairman.
Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus chairman and chief executive, will become the new chief executive of British Airways and take over as chairman after a transition period.
Fernando Candela, LEVEL chief executive, is joining the Group’s management committee in a new role of chief transformation officer.
At Aer Lingus, Donal Moriarty, currently the airline’s chief corporate affairs officer, will become interim chief executive. A permanent appointment will be announced in due course.
What is Cruz's legacy?
Cruz took over the helm at British Airways back in 2016 having been CEO at another IAG subsidiary Vueling. At the time it was a bit of a surprise that BA would bring in someone whose track record was always in low-cost carriers having started one of his own before it got merged into Vueling. In 2017 I made quite a scathing attack on BA under Cruz's leadership, though fair play to them, I was contacted afterwards and invited along to see the works in progress. A couple of years later they released one of the best Business Class products with Club Suites, to much fanfare and rightful praise.
Many of the long haul aircraft have seen significant overhauling including the most recent decommissioning of Boeing 747s in favour of mid-range A350-1000s and B787-10s. While sad for aviation enthusiasts to let such iconic aircraft go, it is clearly a step in the right direction for business operation and sustainability concerns.
When he was brought in by Willie Walsh his brief was to reduce expenses and increase profitability in order to compete in the era of ever-dominating budget airlines. This it seems has happened though it is hard to ignore the elephant in the room. Multiple strikes, IT failures and the handling of the latest round of job cuts have severely affected the perception of British Airways both from the public and from the staff inside the company.
For me though I will be remembering his unfailing politeness and thoughtfulness even when boxing him into a corner with difficult open-ended questions. Despite speaking to probably hundreds of other staff and journalists he always remembered me from the crowd at later meetings.
All change at the top
A few months ago Luís Gallego, former CEO of yet another IAG subsidiary Iberia, stepped in to replace Willie Walsh as top dog of IAG. This was widely seen as a surprise due to the disparate relative importance of BA and Iberia to IAG, with British Airways being by far the larger airline. It shouldn't be seen too much as a surprise that Cruz will be leaving now given tendencies for new leaders to want to replace the team around them.
Though his current position as CEO of Aer Lingus for nearly 2 years, Sean Doyle has actually been at British Airways since 1998 when he joined as a finance analyst. Working his way up the ranks he became Director of Network, Fleet and Alliances in 2016.
It is fairly typical for IAG to promote staff from inside its umbrella than to hire from externally and this new appointment is no exception. The marbles shift down the tube as it were. During a global pandemic don't expect too many innovative changes for a while. Investors may just want a period of stability more than anything else.