Handing over BA
Willie Walsh insists that while it has been “a bit of a wrench” leaving the top job at British Airways, he will not be meddling in his successor’s business – or indeed in Iberia – unless his assistance is sought.
The Irishman, who turns 50 this year, became BA’s chief executive in October 2005. He had previously held that position at Aer Lingus, having he started there as a pilot.
“You do suffer withdrawal symptoms, especially when it is a job you’ve enjoyed doing so much,” he says. “At midnight on 21 January when we handed over [from BA to IAG], I was able to put my phone on silent beside my bed for the first time since I joined BA, because I don’t need to be available 24h a day. But I’m not sure I slept any better.”
Walsh has handed the BA reins over to Keith Williams, who was previously the airline’s chief financial officer. “Moving out of [BA’s headquarters at] Waterside was very sensible, because it gives Keith clear visibility that he is the one running BA. I’ve told him that I’m going to step back and that if I’m getting in his way he’s free to kick me out!”However Walsh and his team at IAG are available as a resource to both operating companies, should they be needed.
Walsh could remain at the centre of BA’s long-running industrial dispute with cabin crew, and is unconcerned that it was not resolved before his departure. “This is fundamental for the future of the business, so it is absolutely crucial we are not compromised.” Walsh is happy to continue being directly involved in the talks, saying that “it’s Keith’s call” whether he does.
Chief executive British Airways 2005-2011
Chief executive Aer Lingus 2001-2005
Chief executive Futura 1998-2000