British Airways (BA) Chief Executive Alex Cruz has stepped down from his role at the head of the airline with immediate effect.

Luis Gallego, the head of International Airlines Group (IAG) which owns BA, cited “the worst crisis faced in our industry” as the reason for Cruz’s departure, as the airline industry faces the unprecedented crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re navigating the worst crisis faced in our industry and I’m confident these internal promotions will ensure IAG is well placed to emerge in a strong position,” Gallego said of the leadership shake up.

Gallego praised Cruz for working “tirelessly to modernise the airline… through a particularly demanding period,” including by securing numerous restructuring agreements with “the vast majority of employees.”  

Cruz took charge in 2016 and oversaw a number of changes during his four years at the helm. He introduced ‘buy on board’, which replaced complimentary in-flight catering in the economy section of short-haul flights. Cruz was also at the reins during the catastrophic IT failure in 2017 which saw thousands of passengers temporarily stranded, as well as the major data breach at the company in 2018.

During his tenure he faced strikes of cabin crew and pilots, as well as threats of industrial action amid job cuts announced this year. British Airways decided to slash 12,000 jobs from an overall workforce of 42,000 as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Sean Doyle, the former Aer Lingus chief executive, will now step up and assume the role of British Airways CEO according to a statement from IAG. Cruz will stay on as a non-executive chairman at the airline.

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