Industry

Published on April 1st, 2021 | by Alan Dwyer

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Willie Walsh Takes Over at IATA

Dubliner Willie Walsh has taken over his new role as the Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). He succeeds Alexandre de Juniac. His appointment was confirmed as IATA’s 8th Director General by the 76th IATA Annual General Meeting in November 2020. He joins IATA after a 40-year career in the airline industry. Walsh retired from the International Airlines Group (IAG) in September 2020 after serving as its CEO since its inception in 2011. He has also served on the IATA Board of Governors for almost 13 years between 2005 to 2018, including serving as Chair (2016-2017).

Having joined Aer Lingus in 1979 as a cadet pilot and later becoming a Captain, he moved into a management position in the airline’s flight operations department in 1989, beginning a rise that led to him being appointed Chief Executive of Futura, Aer Lingus’ Spanish charter airline in 1998. He returned to Aer Lingus in 2000 as Chief Operations Officer (COO) and was appointed Chief Executive in October 2001 at a time when the carrier was in a grave financial crisis following the September 11 attacks in the USA. Walsh led a radical restructuring that returned Aer Lingus to profitability. In 2005, Walsh was appointed Chief Executive of British Airways (BA). He led BA through the 2008/09 Global Financial Crisis, established a transatlantic joint business venture with Iberia, Finnair and American Airlines, and oversaw the 2011 merger of BA and Iberia under a newly established parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG). Walsh served as Chief Executive of IAG from its inception until he retired in September 2020.

Commenting as he took up his new role, Willie Walsh said, “I am passionate about our industry and about the critical work that IATA does on behalf of its members, never more so than during the COVID-19 crisis. IATA has been at the forefront of efforts to restart global connectivity, including developing the IATA Travel Pass. Less visible but of equal importance, airlines continue to rely on IATA’s financial settlement systems, Timatic and other vital services to support their day-to-day operations. I am grateful to Alexandre for leaving behind a strong organization and a motivated team. Together, the IATA team is absolutely focused on restoring the freedom of movement that airlines provide to billions of people around the world. That means your freedom to visit friends and family, meet critical business partners, secure and retain vital contracts, and explore our wonderful planet. In normal times over four billion travellers depend on aviation each year and the distribution of vaccines has put the value of efficient air cargo in the spotlight. Airlines are committed to delivering safe, efficient, and sustainable services. My goal is to ensure that IATA is a forceful voice supporting the success of global air transport. We will work with supporters and critics alike to deliver on our commitment to an environmentally sustainable airline industry. It’s my job to make sure that governments, which rely on the economic and social benefits our industry generates, also understand the policies we need to deliver those benefits.”

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