May 26, 2024

Willie Walsh to take over as IATA Chief

By Bev Fearis, published 25/11/20

Willie Walsh, the former CEO of British Airways’ parent International Airlines Group, is to take over as Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association next year.

He will replace Alexandre de Juniac, who is stepping down from his role on March 31.

Accepting the role at IATA’s AGM yesterday, Walsh said: “My style will be different to what has gone before me. I too am a businessman. I too understand how Governments operate but I am even more unhappy and more critical of how they get things done or more importantly, in many cases how they have failed to get things done.”

He said with 40 years in aviation – half as a pilot and half as a CEO – he has seen first-hand the numerous challenges and significant crises the industry has faced and overcome.

“I have a passion for this industry and a passion for IATA. We need more than ever an effective industry body to serve and represent our interests,” he said.

Hitting out at politicians, he said passengers have “been denied the freedom we provide, not by a virus, but by a disjointed political response and the restrictions put in place by certain governments who have failed to adapt and to adopt the sensible measures that would have allowed almost normal air services to continue”.

De Juniac has been IATA CEO since September 2016, joining from Air France-KLM where he was Chairman and CEO. He made known his intention to step down from the association several months ago.

“I did not come to this decision lightly. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve the global air transport industry – what I call the business of freedom – as the head of IATA,” he said.

“Over the last years IATA has strategically increased its relevance as the voice of the global airline industry. This has been evident in the Covid-19 crisis.”

In other changes, Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, has been appointed Chair of the IATA Board of Governors, succeeding Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa.

Hayes will serve an extended term as Chair covering two AGMs due the disruption to governance cycles caused by the Covid-19 crisis. His term will end at the conclusion of the Association’s 78th Annual General Meeting in 2022.