The new boss of British Airways’ parent company has parachuted in an old hand to rescue the airline after ousting its controversial chief executive.
In his first major decision since taking over around a month ago, IAG supremo Luis Gallego has replaced Alex Cruz from the top job at BA and brought in Sean Doyle, the boss of IAG stable-mate Aer Lingus.
Doyle, 49, will take over with immediate effect from Cruz, who has been temporarily shunted to the role of non-executive chairman.
Taking control: Sean Doyle will now be in the pilot’s seat at BA after Alex Cruz was ousted
But he will ultimately relinquish that job too to his successor, bringing his turbulent spell at BA to an end.
Susannah Streeter, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘This is a sign that Luis Gallego is flexing his muscles and trying to demonstrate he’ll make the changes necessary to lead a sustained recovery for the airline group.’
Doyle is on familiar ground at BA – he spent 20 years at the airline before being promoted to Aer Lingus’ top job in 2018.
But the Irishman has a tough task to repair the damage caused to BA’s reputation under Cruz’s tenure, as well as steering the airline though the biggest crisis in its history.
BA is in the process of cutting 13,000 jobs from its 42,000-strong workforce and IAG was forced to go cap in hand to shareholders to raise £2.5billion in emergency funds last month after the pandemic wiped £8billion off its market value.
Covid brought global air travel to a standstill for months and sent the group plunging to a £3.8billion half-year loss.
Cruz had been applauded by investors for helping turn around the airline’s performance after he took over in 2016.
Ruthless cost-cutting helped BA rack up a record profit of almost £2billion in 2018.
But his reputation has also been tarnished by a string of scandals. He presided over an IT meltdown in 2017 that disrupted flights over a busy bank holiday weekend and, in 2018, a data breach resulted in a record £183million fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Cruz also riled long-standing BA customers when he scrapped free food on short-haul economy flights to cut costs.
The 54-year-old Spaniard also had a disastrous relationship with unions that last year led to the first pilot strikes in BA’s history and was slammed for his handling of mass job cuts amid the Covid crisis.
Doyle, a County Cork native and father-of-one, is seen as a safe pair of hands at BA. He trained as a management accountant before joining the airline in 1998 as a financial analyst.
He worked his way up the ranks to become its network, fleets and alliances director by the time he was moved to Aer Lingus.
Gallego has been quick to show his ruthless streak since taking over from Walsh. He has also moved the chief executive of budget airline Level, Fernando Candela, to a new role of transformation officer.
He paid tribute to fellow Spaniard Cruz but 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.’