British Airways has announced it is replacing its chief executive Alex Cruz as the airline navigates “the worst crisis” facing its industry.
Mr Cruz, who has been with BA since 2016, will be immediately replaced by Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle.
Mr Cruz will stay on as non-executive chairman for a transition period before Mr Doyle also takes on the role.
BA has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with unions over redundancies and pay cuts.
It is cutting 13,000 staff and has been criticised by staff and MPs who claim the airline has been following a “fire and rehire” policy, which left some employees facing pay cuts of up to 50%.
Luis Gallego, chief executive of IAG, which owns BA, 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.”
The shake-up is the first major move by Mr Gallego who took over as IAG’s chief executive last month, replacing long-standing boss Willie Walsh.
“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.
Mr Doyle is returning to BA after just two years in charge at Aer Lingus, which is also owned by IAG. Prior to that, he had worked at BA since 1998.
But Ms Streeter said: “Sean Doyle will have his work cut out to make immediate progress given that British Airways is facing the toughest challenge in its history as demand for international travel has plummeted and quarantine restrictions continue to constrain bookings.”
Mr Cruz’s tenure as BA’s boss has been eventful. In September last year, the airline’s pilots staged their first ever strike which led to 2,325 flights being cancelled and cost BA €137m (£124m).
It has also suffered a number of costly IT problems, including an incident in 2017 which left 75,000 flyers stranded and cost the airline £80m.
IAG declined to comment on whether Mr Cruz would receive any compensation when he leaves BA once the transition period is completed. It also declined to say how long the transition period would last.