Willie Walsh, the former head of IAG, will be the next director general of the IATA, effective April 1. Alexandre de Juniac, who currently leads the association, announced he is stepping down at the group’s Annual General Meeting, held virtually this year.
De Juniac has led IATA since 2016, after years as CEO of Air France/KLM. The airline industry recorded record-setting profits during most of de Juniac’s tenure at the head of IATA, but faced the worst crisis in a century this year, in the teeth of the global Covid-19 pandemic. He has long been an advocate of air transport’s potential to spur economic growth, and during the pandemic has lobbied for governments to use testing and other safeguards to remove travel restrictions. Calling his time as director general the “privilege of a lifetime,” de Juniac said: “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.”
Walsh started his career as a pilot for Aer Lingus, eventually rising to lead the Irish flag carrier. He became CEO of British Airways in 2005, and in 2011 spearheaded the creation of International Airlines Group (IAG) with the integration of Iberia, and later, his former employer, Aer Lingus. In addition to those carriers, IAG now includes Vueling and Level and is in talks to acquire Air Europa. Walsh stepped down from IAG in September.