New job for Willie Walsh revealed

Since leaving the airline group in September many have speculated what his next role will be 

Former IAG and British Airways CEO Willie Walsh is set to become the 80th director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), after its current leader Alexandre de Juniac announced he will step down in March next year. 

The organisation’s board of governors is expected to meet virtually today to confirm and vote on the appointment of Walsh, who will assume the role from April 1, 2021. 

Willie Walsh
(Photo Wikimedia Commons/Stuart Bailey)

Commenting on his departure, de Juniac said: “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…[We have] set the course to restore air connectivity amid the pandemic with systematic pre-departure testing.  

“We are well into preparations to fulfil critical vaccine distribution needs. In parallel, we have restructured IATA to survive the crisis and be ready to support the industry recovery with an organisation dimensioned to serve a smaller industry. And we have a motivated team that is determined to get the job done. The building blocks for an industry recovery are in place. And now is the right time to hand over IATA’s leadership for the long process of recovery.” 

BA and IB
(Photo Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory)

The French businessman joined the industry trade body in September 2016 from Air France-KLM, where he was chairman and CEO. 

Willie Walsh’s career in aviation began at the age of 17 when he joined Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus as a cadet pilot and worked through the ranks to become a captain in 1990, flying the Boeing 737. His management career commenced in 1998 when he was appointed CEO of Futura, the company’s Spanish charter airline. 

(Wikimedia Commons/Pedro Aragão)

Returning to Dublin in 2001, Walsh was appointed chief operating officer of Aer Lingus but was later elevated to chief executive officer. The businessman was then hired by British Airways in October 2005 and remained with the UK flag carrier until January 2011 when, following the creation of IAG, he then became the chief executive of the airline group. 

In September, Walsh retired from IAG and was succeeded by ex-Iberia chief Luis Gallego. 

Since leaving IAG, Walsh has worked at Dublin-based travel technology firm CarTrawler as its deputy chairman. Dubbed ‘slasher Walsh’ for his tough stance on costs, he received acclaim for building the organisation he led into one of Europe’s most profitable airline groups.