Cruz Steps Down at BA as Part of IAG Management Reboot

 - October 12, 2020, 8:54 AM
The UK government has said it is willing to consider Covid testing plans as a means to shorten quarantine requirements for passengers traveling to UK airports like London Heathrow. (Photo: British Airways)

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Alex Cruz is stepping down as chairman and chief executive of British Airways (BA) and is being replaced, with immediate effect, by Sean Doyle, his counterpart at Aer Lingus. The unexpected move was confirmed in a statement on Monday by International Airlines Group (IAG), which is the parent company for both carriers.

Cruz, who retains a non-executive board position, joined BA in 2016 and has overseen a politically contentious process to cut around 13,000 jobs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. UK union leaders and some politicians have accused BA’s management of cynically pursuing a “fire and rehire” policy in an effort to impose pay cuts of up to 50 percent. The airline has denied the accusations.

The leadership change at BA was orchestrated by IAG’s new chief executive Luis Gallego, who last month took over from Willie Walsh. IAG also announced the appointment of Fernando Candela to the new position of chief transformation officer. He was formerly with IAG low-cost carrier Iberia Express and Level.

The leadership changes at BA have been made as the UK airline sector braces for further revenue declines with Covid infection rates rising steeply across much of Europe. After months of criticism from the industry over the UK government’s 14-day quarantine requirements, the Department for Transport last week launched a Global Travel Taskforce to consider how Covid testing for arriving passengers might shorten quarantine periods and how travelers from some countries might be allowed to self-isolate before flying to the UK.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps did not say when the new testing system might be in place. Airlines, airports, and other travel sector companies welcomed the move, which they have been requesting since quarantines were introduced in June. Some have pointed out that certain countries covered by the quarantine requirements actually have infection rates that are lower than the UK.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel introduced quarantine requirements on June 8 while refusing to publish the scientific evidence that she claimed supported the move. At the time, BA threatened legal action against the policy and Cruz refused to participate in a June 4 “task force” meeting between Patel and industry leaders, which the government characterized as consultation even though she had already told parliament on the previous day that the policy would be implemented in full. It remains to be seen whether the new Global Travel Taskforce will have scope to introduce alternative proposals.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the UK’s departure from the European Aviation Safety Agency when the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority has created the new position of head of flight operations. On Monday, it announced the appointment of former air force and airline pilot Glenn Bradley to the role, which will oversee all commercial and non-commercial aircraft operations, as well as training organizations.