Monday 12 October 2020 8:58 am

British Airways boss Alex Cruz steps down amid industry's 'worst crisis'

Alex Cruz will step down as chief executive and chairman of British Airways with immediate effect, owner International Airlines Group said.

IAG chief Luis Gallego said the management shake-up came as the firm navigated “the worst crisis faced in our industry” in his first major announcement since taking over from Willie Walsh.

The pandemic has devastated the aviation industry as travellers avoid flying amid rising infection numbers and quarantine restrictions constrain bookings.

IAG said last month it expects capacity to fall 63 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year, compared to the previously forecasted 59 per cent.

Aer Lingus chief Sean Doyle will replace Cruz as chief executive and take over as chairman after a transition period, IAG said in a statement.

Doyle worked for British Airways for more than two decades before moving to head the Irish airline nearly two years. Donal Moriarty, currently Aer Lingus’ chief corporate affairs office will become interim chief executive.

Cruz started his career at American Airlines before joining British Airways in 1998. He was appointed chairman and chief executive in 2016 by Willie Walsh with the task of cutting costs and helping it compete with rivals.

As the pandemic hit, Cruz proposed up to 12,000 job cuts and put a number of older employees on lower paid contracts.

Last month he told MPs that the airline expected unions to agree to new terms and conditions to end the dispute between staff and management.

He told the Commons Transport Select Committee that the new terms were necessary because the airline was “fighting for its survival”.

On Monday Gallego said Cruz had worked “tirelessly to modernise the airline” and since then has “led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees”.

Susannah Streeter, Hargreaves Lansdown’s senior investment and markets analyst said: “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.”