GENEVA — IATA is known for its strong leadership and the next airline executive taking the top spot is no exception.
Willie Walsh, former CEO of British Airways’ parent company IAG, is now IATA’s Director General.
As announced in November 2020, Walsh succeeds Alexandre de Juniac, the former Chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM who served as IATA’s Director General from September 2016 to March 2021.
In 1979 Walsh got his start in the airline industry as a cadet pilot at Aer Lingus, at the age of 18. Rising through the ranks Walsh was CEO at Aer Lingus from 2001 to 2005, overseeing the airline’s transformation into a low-cost airline amid rising competition from Europe’s LCCs and ULCCs, Ryanair in particular.
From 2005 to 2011 he was CEO of British Airways, strengthening its position amid even more intense competition. Walsh also secured BA’s joint venture with American Airlines. In 2011, with the creation of IAG, Walsh was appointed CEO, overseeing the group’s carriers which by then included British Airways, Iberia, BMI and more.
He also served on the IATA Board of Governors for almost 13 years between 2005 to 2018, including serving as Chair (2016-2017).
“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,” says Walsh.
He notes that IATA “has been at the forefront of efforts to restart global connectivity, including developing the IATA Travel Pass.”
According to new reports, the IATA Travel Pass will be available as a downloadable app for iOS from Apple by April 15, with availability via Google Play coming soon.
And airlines continue to rely on IATA’s financial settlement systems, Timatic and other vital services to support their day-to-day operations, he says.
“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,” said Walsh.
Walsh adds: “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 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.”
Walsh was confirmed as IATA’s 8th Director General by the 76th IATA Annual General Meeting on Nov. 24, 2020.