IAG CEO Willie Walsh to serve as oneworld Governing Board Chairman

27 March 2014

Willie Walsh, Chief Executive Officer of International Airlines Group (IAG), has been nominated by the Governing Board of oneworld®, the leading global airline alliance, to serve as its Chairman for the year ahead.

He succeeds American Airlines' Chairman Tom Horton, who has filled the role since December 2011.

Willie Walsh will act as "first among equals" of the CEOs of oneworld's member airlines, starting his tenure as the alliance completes its biggest yet expansion drive with the addition of:

  • TAM Airlines on Monday (31 March).  TAM is the leading carrier in Brazil, South America's biggest economy and the world's third biggest domestic market for air travel.  Its entry, alongside LAN, consolidates oneworld's position as the leading alliance for South America.
  • US Airways, also on Monday (31 March).  US Airways' merger with oneworld founding member American Airlines creates the world's biggest airline and giving oneworld the leading alliance position in the USA, the world's biggest domestic air travel market.
  • SriLankan Airlines, on 1 May, as the first airline from the Indian subcontinent to join any global airline alliance.

With these recruits and the alliance's established member airlines – airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and more than 30 of their affiliated carriers – oneworld will:

  • Serve almost a thousand airports in 150 countries, with more than 14,000 daily departures.
  • Carry more than 500 million passengers a year on a combined fleet of some 3,300 aircraft.
  • Offer more than 600 airport lounges.
  • Generate more than US$ 140 billion annual revenues.

oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby said: "We thank Tom Horton sincerely for his leadership of oneworld during a period of unprecedented growth for the alliance and at a time when his own American Airlines has been undergoing its merger with US Airways.  He has played a pivotal role in strengthening oneworld also through the significant deepening of cooperation between American and so many of our other member airlines in recent years.

"We are fortunate to have, in Willie Walsh, a man with the vision, determination and overall skills and capabilities to lead us forward in the next phase of our journey to establish oneworld firmly as the first choice alliance for frequent international travellers the world over."

About Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh became Chief Executive of International Airlines Group (IAG) in January 2011, joining from British Airways where he was Chief Executive from October 2005.  IAG is the parent company of oneworld members British Airways and Iberia and also of Vueling, which is not part of oneworld.  IAG is one of the world's largest airline groups with 431 aircraft flying to 243 destinations and carrying 67 million passengers each year.

At British Airways, Willie guided the company to its first-ever 10 per cent operating margin in 2007 and introduced permanent changes across the airline to bring it through the worst recession in aviation history in 2008-9.  He secured the airline's long-term strategic objective to establish a transatlantic joint business with American Airlines and Iberia and set up the merger with Iberia that led to the formation of IAG.

Prior to joining British Airways, he was Chief Executive at Aer Lingus, then also part of oneworld.  He took on that role in the aftermath of 9/11.  Faced with bankruptcy and heavy losses, he radically restructured the airline and this culminated in it posting an EUR 107 million profit in 2004, making Aer Lingus the most profitable state-owned airline in the western world.

Born in Dublin in 1961, Willie joined Aer Lingus in 1979 as a cadet pilot and worked his way through the ranks to become a captain in 1990.  He began his move to management in 1989 where he fulfilled various roles in the Flight Operations department.  He completed a Master of Science in Management and Business Administration at Dublin's Trinity College in 1992.

His managerial skills led him to being appointed Chief Executive of Futura, Aer Lingus' Spanish charter airline in 1998.  He returned to Dublin with Aer Lingus in 2000 where he took up the role of Chief Operating Officer and was subsequently appointed as Chief Executive in October 2001.

About oneworld

oneworld is an alliance of the world's leading airlines committed to providing the highest level of service and convenience to frequent international travellers.  

oneworld member airlines work together to deliver consistently a superior, seamless travel experience, with special privileges and rewards for frequent flyers, including earning and redeeming miles and points across the entire alliance network. Top tier cardholders (Emerald and Sapphire) enjoy access to more than 600 airport lounges. The most regular travellers (Emerald) can also use fast track security lanes at select airports and extra baggage allowances.

oneworld is currently the holder of an unprecedented eight leading international awards for airline alliances - named World's Best Airline Alliance in the 2013 World Airline Awards by the independent Skytrax airline quality ratings agency, the Best Airline Alliance by Global Traveler in its GT Tested Reader Survey 2013 Awards for the fourth year running, the World's Leading Airline Alliance in the 2013 World Travel Awards for the 11th year running, Best Airline Alliance in the 2013 Business Traveller Awards, the Premier Traveler Best of 2013 Awards and the 2013 Air Transport News Awards, Australian Business Traveller Best Airline Alliance in 2012 for the second year running, and FlightStats Airline Alliance On-Time Performance 2012 winner, in what was believed to have been the first time a punctuality award has been presented to any global airline alliance.