Chris Jasper/LONDON

British Airways' sweeping executive reshuffle has removed at least two senior figures from the carrier's upper management. It has effectively elevated or demoted others as its old horizontally oriented structure is replaced by a vertically oriented model through which the airline says it hopes to "sharpen its customer focus, reduce overlaps and improve efficiency".

BA's 14-man Executive Team, which had its last major shake-up in January 1997, has been disbanded and replaced by a Management Team made up of chief executive Bob Ayling, along with six business group heads.

Five incumbents retain responsibility for finance, people, strategy, service and operations, and technical, while Deutsche BA chief executive Carl Michel's arrival as head of a new commercial "super-unit" appears to mark him out as Ayling's chosen successor.

The two main casualties of the reshuffle are John Patterson, director of alliances, and Charles Gurassa, director of passenger and cargo business. The pair do not appear in BA's new hierarchy, although sources say they may be offered positions outside that structure.

Three other senior managers retain their responsibilities, but are excluded from the new Management Team, with marketing director Martin George and world sales director Dale Moss now reporting to Michel, rather than directly to Ayling. Flight operations director Capt Mike Jeffery reports to technical director Colin Matthews, although he still answers to Ayling on flight safety matters.

Three other former members of the Executive Team are also excluded from the Management Team, but continue to report to Ayling, being responsible mainly for administrative functions.

As rising star Michel is only 35, his appointment seems to suggest that Ayling is determined to remain at BA's helm for the foreseeable future, despite the pressures associated with his airline's underperformance. Figures including Qantas head James Strong have previously been seen as potential rivals for the job. A wholesale refocusing on the high-yield business market has yet to hit BA profits, with August's figures fairly flat.

Source: Flight International