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British Airways Much Maligned Boss Steps Down

British Airways much criticised chief executive Alex Cruz is to step down from the top job – one of the most high profile positions in British business – with immediate effect and become a non-executive chairman.

BA’s ex-CEO Alex Cruz.

The decision was made by Luis Gallego, the new CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG) which is the parent company of British Airways amongst others.

During his history with the airline Cruz had been much criticised by both staff and public alike. Throughout his four year tenure there have been various staff culls – resulting in strikes and much animosity; the introduction of the M&S buy-on-board products for its short-haul services; the notorious IT failure in 2017 which stranded 75,000 passengers and of course the “fire and rehire” policy brought about by the COVID-19 crisis which saw the cutting of 13,000 staff and employees that remain facing pay cuts of up to 50%.

The buy-on-board service for short haul flights was introduced in 2017 in response to the growing competition from low-cost airlines.

Speaking of Mr Cruz, new IAG boss Luis Gallego said: “I want to thank Alex for all that he has done at British Airways. He worked tirelessly to modernise the airline in the years leading up to the celebration of its 100th anniversary. Since then, he has led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees.”

IAG new CEO Luis Gallego.

Replacing Cruz will be Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle, and Gallego added: “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. I am confident that will continue at British Airways.”

Sean Doyle.

At Aer Lingus, Donal Moriarty, the current chief corporate affairs officer, will become interim chief executive of the airline, IAG said, adding that a permanent appointment would be announced in due course.

The departure of Alex Cruz so soon after IAG’s former boss Willie Walsh brings an end to a sometimes confusing relationship. Walsh, would say he left the running of IAG’s various airlines to their respective CEOs but would sometimes comment critically from the sidelines.

Speaking at a press conference in Canada last year, when Cruz was in the thick of a dispute with pilots, Mr Walsh said he would have handled the talks differently.

Then, eyebrows were raised when Walsh, rather than Cruz, went before the transport select committee for the first of the two BA hearings earlier this year.

“This is a sign that the new chief executive of IAG, 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,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

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