New Virgin Atlantic Boss Set To Challenge BA/American

 - January 14, 2013, 9:45 AM
Virgin Atlantic Airways hopes to reinvigorate its business through a new alliance with Delta Air Lines. (Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

In seeking to consummate its proposed strategic alliance with Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic Airways aims to head off the challenge posed by the formidable pairing of British Airways and American Airlines. So who did Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson recruit to succeed retiring CEO Steve Ridgway? Why, naturally, a senior American Airlines executive in the shape of senior vice president for customers Craig Kreeger, who assumes his new role from February 1.

Assuming Delta’s plan to buy the 49-percent stake in UK-based Virgin currently held by Singapore Airlines wins approval from anti-trust regulators, Kreeger’s first task is to resolve how its new partnership will function in tandem with its new U.S. shareholder’s existing joint venture with Air France-KLM. Another question centers on whether Virgin will give up its previous aversion to joining the larger airline alliances and seek membership of the SkyTeam group, in which Delta and Air France-KLM already play leading roles. Kreeger, 53, directly participated in forging American’s alliance with BA on transatlantic routes. He formerly spent six years working for American Airlines in London.

Meanwhile, German low-fare carrier Air Berlin has replaced its chief executive, Hartmut Mehdorn, with recently appointed board member Wolfgang Prock-Schauer. The former head of UK carrier BMI now oversees a two-year cost-cutting program aimed at improving profitability. Since December 2011, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has stood as Air Berlin’s main shareholder.