Who will follow the Ridgway at Virgin?

The news that Steve Ridgway, who has guided Virgin Atlantic for more than decade, is to step down by the end of next February sees the departure of one of European airline’s longest serving chief executive. Ridgway has been chief executive at Virgin since 2001, after becoming managing director in 1998. Indeed he has been with the airline since 1989 in total.

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(Picture credit: Rex Features)

Few other chief executives have lasted the course with one European airline over the same, pretty tumultuous period. Fernando Pinto has been at TAP Portugal since the end of 2000, while Olga Pleshakova last year marked ten years at the helm of Russian carrier Transaero. Answers on a postcard please (or preferably in a comment to this blog) if you can think of anyone else. 

Ridgway, who also recently served as chairman of the Association of European Airlines, leaves as Virgin Atlantic enters a crucial few months. Alongside the pain of slow economies, volatile fuel prices and increased tax burdens facing all European carriers, Virgin has to contend with the impact of IAG’s recent acquisition of BMI. This not only strengthens its long-time rival, but means they have to do so without the benefit of the feeder traffic BMI provided through a codeshare. This has prompted Virgin to take the step of launching its first short-haul flights, beginning with a domestic link between Manchester and Heathrow.

So who are the names in the frame to succeed Ridgway at Virgin Atlantic? Already speculation in the media has centred around the airline’s chief commercial officer Julie Southern and Rob Fyfe, who leaves Air New Zealand – another airline strong in marketing – at the end of the year.

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