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Willie Walsh
Born October 25, 1961 (1961-10-25) (age 48)
Dublin, Ireland
Residence London, United Kingdom
Nationality Irish
Occupation businessman

Willie Walsh (born 1961) is an Irish airline executive who is current CEO of British Airways and the former CEO of Aer Lingus.

Contents

Early life

Walsh was born in Dublin, Ireland. He attended his local secondary school Ardscoil Rís. At the age of 17, he became a pilot at Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus, joining as a cadet in 1979. During his time as a pilot he acted as chief negotiator for the Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) and is quoted during this time that "a reasonable man gets nowhere in negotiations". He also acquired a Master's degree in management and business administration from Trinity College, Dublin during his pilot years.[1]

He later joined company management, with various positions including that of Chief Executive of then company subsidiary, Futura from 1998 to 2000.

Aer Lingus Chief Executive Officer

In October 2001, he was appointed CEO from his then position of Chief Operating Officer, succeeding Michael Foley who had resigned following a harassment complaint. The carrier was in financial difficulty in the wake of the market downturn following the events of September 11, 2001, losing £2m per day[citation needed]. Walsh took action by eliminating 2,000 staff positions, reducing the number of aircraft types and selling non-core assets, including an art collection at the company headquarters. He reconfigured Aer Lingus as a low-cost airline in imitation of Ryanair, and began withdrawing from various services like short-haul Business Class and cargo services, and heavily restricting the airline's frequent-flyer programme, TAB.

The company operating profits rebounded but the cost of the write-offs and redundancies meant that net profitability was not as quick to recover. Not all of Walsh's reforms were successful, such as the outsourcing of aircraft cleaning. The contracting had not been agreed with Aer Lingus unions which led to large payments to the private contractor while Aer Lingus employees did the cleaning work. A three-day lockout occurred in 2002 during the peak of the cutbacks.

The management team suggested to the principal shareholder, the Irish Government, a float of Aer Lingus on the stock market. Stock floats are often rewarding to top management and this was opposed by the unions who feared a privatised Aer Lingus would impose even tougher working conditions. The Government eventually turned down the float and this led to Walsh and other management executives resigning from the company in January 2005.

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, subsequently described Walsh's offer of an MBO as "[a time] when management wanted to steal the assets for themselves through a management buy out, shafting staff interests." [2].

Dermot Mannion, formerly of Emirates Airline, succeeded Walsh as Aer Lingus Chief Executive Officer.

British Airways Chief Executive Officer

The British Airways board were seeking a successor to Chief Executive Officer Rod Eddington who had announced plans to return to his native Australia at the end of his contract. Walsh was hired in May 2005 at the age of 43 with a six-month shadowing period to get to know the business before the departure of Eddington on October 1, 2005.

Since Willie Walsh took over the reins of British Airways as CEO in October 2005, he has headed the airline during a time of unprecedented turmoil and industrial-relations problems.

Timeline

Summer 2005

Ground staff walk out in support of Gate Gourmet.

Summer 2006

British Airways was announced by the Association of European Airlines as having lost the most luggage in 2006 compared to other major European airlines. For every 1000 passengers carried, it lost 23 bags, 46% more than the average.

Summer 2007

Fuel surcharge price fixing - airline fined record £270 million.

March 2008

T5 Chaos - opening of £4.3 billion Heathrow terminal descends into chaos. It is stated that the company has, so far, lost £16 million because of this. In an interview provided for Sky News, Mr Walsh vowed to stay on at the airline.

May 2008

Record financial results. BA made an operating profit of £875 Million and achieved the long-held goal of a 10% operating margin. Walsh did not publicly take his bonus that would have been due to him as he was taking accountability for the Terminal 5 problems. He did however accept over £1m in additional payments before the end of 2008.

June 2009

Asks staff to work for nothing [3]

July 2009

Worked for nothing. [4]

December 2009

BA staff vote in favour of a 12 day strike during the busy Christmas period.

References

  1. ^ http://www.flightmapping.com/news/17.aspx
  2. ^ "Dáil record, 17 May 2006". http://debates.oireachtas.ie/DDebate.aspx?F=DAL20060517.xml&Dail=29&Ex=All&Page=1. 
  3. ^ BA asks staff to work for nothing
  4. ^ BA chief Willie Walsh worked for nothing in July

External links








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