After recent years of a number of changes at the top of airlines, in part driven by consolidation and struggling performance (look back at some of the changes of a couple years ago here) – 2012 was a relatively quiet year for boardroom moves at leading carriers. By my reckoning none of the top 20 biggest airline groups (as ranked by revenues in 2011) changed chief executives in the last 12 months. In fact Thai Airways, ranked 25th largest by revenues in 2011, was the biggest carrier to change boss.
It gets a bit more fluid among the second half of the biggest 50 airlines. Alitalia, Malaysia Airlines, Gol, Alaska Airlines, Air New Zealand and South African Airways all changed chief executives during 2012. That included the notable departures of long-standing chief Bill Ayer at Alaska and Gol founder Constantino de Oliveira Jr, while another familiar face Steve Ridgway announced his intention to leave Virgin Atlantic next year (read our recent cover feature with Ridgway here for more on his legacy at the UK airline).
Perhaps less surprising was to see changes at the top of Alitalia, LOT and Thai Airways. The incumbants at all three airlines Rocco Sabelli (three years), Marcin Pirog (two years), and Piyasvasti Amranand (three years) left last year, but at least all lasted longer than the average for chief executives at these carriers over recent years. Alitalia (albeit before its relaunch in private hands) and Thai Airways both had five chief executives between 2001-10, while LOT went through seven chief executives over the same period.