Alex Cruz's tenure as British Airways was no joyride, beset as it was by issues with the trade unions. Image Credit: Reuters

London: British Airways CEO Alex Cruz is being replaced, just weeks after fellow Spaniard Luis Gallego took over as head of parent company IAG. Sean Doyle, who has been running Irish sister carrier Aer Lingus, will take over immediately as British Airways CEO.

Cruz will stay on as chairman of the U.K. airline for a transition period, before Doyle assumes that role as well. Cruz is leaving after being passed over in January as replacement for the group's chief, Willie Walsh, who retired as IAG head last month after 15 years in the job. Cruz joined IAG when the London-based group bought out Vueling, the discount carrier he headed.

Initially seen as a likely successor to Walsh, Cruz was criticized for the extent of cost cuts and service changes during his four years at the helm. Pilots, former staff and customers suggested British Airways' image as a premium carrier was being tarnished - even as Walsh kept up pressure for even deeper cutbacks.

Uneasy tenure

This year, Cruz clashed with unions and politicians over plans to slash as many as 12,000 jobs as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out demand for travel. Cruz "led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees," Gallego said in the statement.

The shakeup marks Gallego's first major move at the helm of IAG, a transition delayed for several months by the health crisis. Doyle has been CEO of Aer Lingus for less than two years. Before that, he spent 20 years at British Airways, rising through finance and strategy roles to join the executive and management committee in 2016.