The decision by McCall, currently head of Guardian Media Group (GMG), shocked the media world.
Her move comes after GMG posted pre-tax losses of £90m in the year to March 2009, compared with a profit of £306m the previous year. The paper is the process of cutting 150 jobs in a restructuring overseen by McCall.
McCall was responsible for the Guardian moving from a broadsheet format to the Berliner, as well as selling a vast chunk of the group’s regional newspapers.
EasyJet is also struggling having lost its chairman, finance director and chief executive last year.
Carolyn McCall said: “I am proud to become the chief executive of a company that has achieved so much in the past 15 years, not least a leading presence on Europe’s most popular routes.”
McCall was described by Management Today as “one of the toughest operators to have risen through the Guardian Media Group’s ranks.” McCall fought off Carl Leaver, former international director of Marks and Spencer, to the top job.