British Airways, which is slashing thousands of jobs as coronavirus decimates demand for air travel, announced Monday that CEO Alex Cruz is stepping down “with immediate effect” but gave no reason for his unexpected departure.
Parent group IAG added in a statement that the Spanish businessman, who had been BA chief executive for four and half years, will be replaced by its Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle.
New IAG chief executive Luis Gallego, a fellow Spaniard who took the reins from Willie Walsh just last month, said the company’s management reshuffle was aimed at emerging stronger from the health crisis.
“We’re navigating the worst crisis faced in our industry and I’m confident … IAG is well placed to emerge in a strong position,” Gallego said.
“I want to thank Alex for all that he has done at British Airways. He worked tirelessly to modernise the airline. He has led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees.”
Investors fretted over the news, sending IAG shares down two percent to 101.45 pence in late Monday morning deals.
Faced with the global travel crisis, the stock has plummeted by a staggering 75 percent since the start of the year — making it the worst performer listed on London’s FTSE 100 index.
“British Airways is going to need a new pair of wings if it is to fly through the pandemic in one piece. The airline is now getting new leadership in the form of Sean Doyle,” said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter.
A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the nature of the departure of Cruz, who has overseen a massive cost-slashing drive and will remain non-executive chairman.
British Airways is in the process of axing 13,000 jobs or about one third