British Airways boss Alex Cruz is stepping down and will be replaced by Aer Lingus chief Sean Doyle

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz is to step down from the role, the airline’s parent company IAG said.

He will be replaced by Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle.

IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said: ‘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.

‘I want to thank Alex for all that he has done at British Airways.

‘He worked tirelessly to modernise the airline in the years leading up to the celebration of its 100th anniversary.

‘Since then, he has led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees.’

The coronavirus pandemic has caused carnage at BA, which in April announced plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs, 30 per cent of its global workforce. 

Mr Cruz defended the job cuts last week and said the pandemic has left the national carrier ‘fighting for survival’.

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz is to leave his role, the airline’s parent company has confirmed

He stressed that ‘people need to get flying again’ if the company is to emerge through the winter and weather the ‘worst crisis in its 100 years of history’.

But he told MPs that many would-be customers are still cautious about travelling for fear their holiday destination will suddenly be brought on to the government’s quarantine list. 

Passenger numbers have nosedived and in the first week of September the airline only flew 187,000 passengers, compared with almost a million the same week last year. 

The slump in flights – roughly a quarter are operating – is causing BA to burn through £20million a day and has led to a jobs bloodbath.

Mr Cruz said: ‘Fewer passengers means fewer flights, and fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.’ 

In April, British Airways announced plans to axe up to 12,000 jobs, representing nearly 30 per cent of its workforce.

On September 16, Mr Cruz revealed that 7,200 employees have already left the company, and said the final amount out of redundancies would likely be around 10,000, although this could be greater. 

Appearing before the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, he said: ‘As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast.

‘I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs are concerned.’

Mr Cruz said he had ‘very difficult and yet very constructive’ meetings with pilots’ union Balpa, which resulted in a package being agreed on job and pay cuts aimed at avoiding a larger number of redundancies. 

But he added: ‘This is an impossible situation. We’re having to make incredibly difficult decisions as a consequence of this pandemic and it is really only because of Covid-19 that we have had to go through such deep restructuring.

‘I have to make these difficult decisions at this time but I am completely dedicated and focused on protecting those nearly 30,000 jobs of those British Airways colleagues that will remain within the business.’ 

The chief executive, whose fleet was mostly grounded during the pandemic, said his mission objective was the survival of Britain’s flagship airline. 

Not mincing his about the precariousness of BA’s future, he said: ‘The main focus at the moment is to survive. 

‘We must make it through, then we must be able to compete effectively and make it through the recovery cycle… people need to get flying again.’ 

Laying bare the uphill struggle to revive BA’s dire financial fortunes, he said: ‘We ended up last year, British Airways, with £2.6billion in cash. 

‘At the end of June we had £2.1billion in cash. We’ve been burning approximately an average of £20million of cash per day.’ 

Mr Cruz also told the MPs that BA had processed 2.1million refunds and 1.6million vouchers for customers whose flights had been cancelled.

Mr Cruz revealed that he had taken a 33.3 per cent pay cut, and his top team a 25 per cent cut.

Last year, the boss made £805,000 in salary, benefits and pensions, he said. 

But Mr Cruz’s efforts could be thwarted by a nervous public who he claimed are avoiding trips abroad for fear of having to quarantine. 

He said: ‘People are still afraid of travelling. Of course, we are having weekly changes, as you know, to the quarantine list. 

‘We don’t have a testing solution yet. And still our customers are paying APD (air passenger duty) even just to fly on domestic regional flights.

‘So the overall situation is quite challenging, and this is why we are taking every measure possible to make sure that we can actually make it through this winter.’   

His decision to resign comes as Heathrow’s passenger numbers were revealed to be down 82% year-on-year in September, with 1.2 million people travelling through the airport.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘The Government’s Global Travel Taskforce is a great step forward, but needs to act quickly to save the millions of UK jobs that rely on aviation.

‘Implementing ‘test and release’ after five days of quarantine would kick-start the economy.

‘But the Government could show real leadership by working with the US to develop a common international standard for pre-departure testing that would mean that only Covid-free passengers are allowed to travel from high-risk countries.’

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