Airlines Pick Ex-BA Boss Willie Walsh to Lead Fight to Survive Crisis

Former British Airways chief Willie Walsh is set to become head of the International Air Transport Association as carriers worldwide struggle with the deepest crisis the sector has ever faced.

Walsh led BA’s takeover of Spain’s Iberia to formIAG SA, which he headed until September, and will take over as IATA director general from Alexandre de Juniac when he leaves on March 31, the lobby group said Monday.

The appointment puts a hard-nosed industry veteran in charge at IATA as airlines battered by the Covid pandemic struggle to make their voices heard. While governments have provided emergency funds to some carriers, they’ve generally turned a deaf ear to increasingly desperate calls for passenger testing to ease travel curbs, with measures only now being rolled out.

Walsh, 59, a famed cost-cutter who delayed his exit from IAG for six months to help guide it through the worst of the crisis, hasn’t always seen eye to eye with his peers, arguing vehemently against wholesale bailouts even as the virus was pushing companies into bankruptcy. IATA members will vote on his appointment at the trade association’s annual general meeting on Tuesday.

De Juniac, 58, has led IATA since 2016, having previously been chiefAir France-KLM.

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