Former International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Willie Walsh became the International Air Transport Association’s (Iata’s) eighth director-general on Thursday, succeeding Alexandre de Juniac. Iata is the representative body of the global airline industry. Walsh was elected to the post at Iata’s seventy-sixth annual general meeting, in November.
“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,” affirmed Walsh. “Iata has been at the forefront of efforts to restart global connectivity, including development of 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.”
Walsh started his career as a cadet pilot with Irish national flag carrier Aer Lingus in 1979. He was CEO of Aer Lingus from 2001 to 2005, and then CEO of British Airways (2005 to 2011) before becoming the first CEO of IAG in 2011. (IAG is a Madrid, Spain, domiciled, London, UK, headquartered Anglo-Spanish group that now owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and low cost carriers LEVEL and Vueling.) He retired from IAG last September.
“I am grateful to Alexandre for leaving behind a strong organisation and a motivated team,” he said. “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 contacts, and to explore our wonderful planet.”
As far as his experience with Iata is concerned, Walsh served on its board of governors for 13 years, from 2005 to 2018. He served as the association’s chairperson in the period 2016/2017. Some 290 airlines, representing 82% of the world’s air traffic, belong to Iata.
“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,” he stressed. “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.”