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Former IAG Chief Willie Walsh Becomes IATA’s Eighth Director General

Willie Walsh has taken the helm of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), succeeding Alexandre de Juniac. Mr. Walsh was confirmed as IATA’s 8th Director General at the organization’s 76th Annual General Meeting on November 24, 2020.

IATA's Eighth Director General, Willie Walsh - Courtesy IATA

On Thursday (April 1, 2021), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that Willie Walsh has officially taken on the role as the organization’s eighth Director General, succeeding Alexandre de Juniac. The succession has been planned since November 24, 2020, when Mr. Walsh was confirmed as the organization’s next Director General at IATA’s 76th Annual General Meeting. Willie Walsh retired as the CEO of the International Airlines Group in September 2020, after holding that position since the Group’s 2011 inception. Before that, he served as CEO for British Airways (2005-2011) and CEO of Aer Lingus (2001-2005). Mr. Walsh started his illustrious 40-year airline industry career as a cadet pilot for Aer Lingus in 1979. Additionally, he is deeply familiar with IATA, as he previously served on the Board of Governors from 2005 to 2018, including serving as Chairman between 2016 and 2017.

In Thursday’s announcement, IATA’s new Director General, 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, to meet critical business partners, to secure and retain vital contracts, and to explore our wonderful planet.

“In normal times over four billion travelers 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 commitments 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.”

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1961, Willie Walsh joined the country’s flag carrier Aer Lingus as a cadet pilot in 1979, becoming a captain in 1990. A year earlier, Walsh has moved into a management position in the carrier’s flight operations department, launching a management career that would see him become the Chief Executive of Aer Lingus’ Spanish charter carrier Futura in 1998. Mr. Walsh returned to Aer Lingus in 2000 as Chief Operations Officer and was appointed CEO in October 2001. In 2005, he was appointed as Chief Executive of British Airways, where he led the company through the 2008/09 financial crisis, established a transatlantic joint business venture with Iberia, Finnair and American Airlines, and oversaw the 2011 merger of British Airways and Iberia. Mr. Walsh was CEO of the merged airlines’ parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), from inception until retirement in September 2020.

In his new position, Walsh will work from IATA’s main offices in Montreal and Geneva. Willie Walsh is a citizen of Ireland and Holds a Master of Science and Business Administration from Trinity College, Dublin.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) represents around 290 airlines, comprising approximately 82 percent of global air traffic.

Source: IATA


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