Willie Walsh retires from IAG

IAG chief takes his delayed retirement, as former Iberia boss takes over amid shareholder revolt over Walsh’s pay 

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways’ parent company International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) has retired, confirming his decision at an AGM yesterday. 

IAG is the parent company for British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, LEVEL and Vueling. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

The 41-year career industry veteran also verified at the meeting that he would be leaving the sector.

Willie Walsh
The 58-year-old businessman became IAG chief executive when the company was formed in 2011. Wikimedia Commons/Stuart Bailey 

Luis Gallego, the former chairman and chief executive of Spanish flag carrier Iberia, has taken over the top job at the company which owns five different airlines. 

Commenting on his new role, Luis Gallego said: “It’s an honour to become IAG’s chief executive, following in Willie’s footsteps and building on all that he has achieved in the past nine years. 

Gallego became Iberia chief executive in March 2013. According to the company, during his tenure at the airline, he turned it around, restoring profitability (before COVID) as well as improving its efficiency, customer service and brand.

Luis Gallego is the former chairman and CEO of Ibera. IAG

Walsh set his planned departure for March but delayed it by six months to allow for continuity in the business to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Setting out his plan for the future direction of the company, Gallego commented: “The Group was in good shape before COVID with a history of strong profitable growth. We have a portfolio of world-class brands, acquired through selective mergers and acquisitions, in which we have invested effectively for the benefit of our customers while keeping costs under control. My goal is to ensure that IAG adapts to the “new normal” in aviation and builds on its strengths to secure a strong future for the Group, our customers, shareholders and employees”. 

Walsh’s departure comes after a shareholder revolt which saw nearly 21% vote against a directors’ remuneration package – which included £883,000 in annual incentives for the retiring Walsh, whose total package for 2019 was valued at nearly £3.2m. 

The motion still passed but with considerably less support from shareholders compared with the other resolutions which went through with at least 97% backing.