Who Is Sean Doyle – British Airways’ New CEO

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On October 12th, International Airlines Group (IAG) announced changes to its senior management team with immediate effect. The biggest news was the stepping-down of Alex Cruz from his role as chief executive of British Airways. Stepping into the role is Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus chairman, and chief executive. So who is Sean Doyle, and what kind of experience is he bringing to British Airways?

Aer Lingus’ CEO, Sean Doyle, will take the top job in British Airways. Photo: Aer Lingus

A small-town Irishman

According to The Independent, Doyle grew up in the town of Youghal in County Cork, Ireland. The town isn’t too large – having less than 8,000 residents as of 2016. CorkBeo notes that his father came from a famous family of hurlers and played at the inter-county level. Doyle’s studies didn’t take him terribly far from home, studying at University College Cork (UCC).

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49-year-old Doyle first joined British Airways around the age of 27, in 1998. According to IAG, the Irishman started off in “various financial, strategy, commercial and alliance roles for the airline.” 18 years of work culminated in his appointment to the airline’s executive management committee in 2016 as director of network, fleet, and alliances. Doyle stepped into his most recent as Aer Lingus chief executive in January 2019.

British Airways Boeing 747
While Doyle comes from the top leadership position at Aer Lingus, much of his career has been spent with British Airways. Photo: Getty Images

Announcing the changes in a press release, IAG chief executive, Luis Gallego, said the following of British Airways’ new chief,

“Sean Doyle has extensive experience at British Airways having worked there for 20 years before moving to head Aer Lingus nearly two years ago where he has done an excellent job. I am confident that will continue at British Airways.”

Recent conflicts at Aer Lingus

With his prior role at Aer Lingus, Doyle is no stranger to conflict and making difficult decisions – ones that have drawn anger from various groups.

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Last month, Doyle was called to appear before a government committee to explain his “open contempt” for staff, The Irish Sun reports. Brid Smith, a TD (the Irish equivalent to a member of parliament) of the political party People Before Profit, expressed dissatisfaction towards the CEO (Doyle) for the “utter indifference” shown the employees of Aer Lingus.

aer lingus
In his relatively short tenure at Aer Lingus, Doyle has already had to make some difficult decisions with operations and staffing cuts. Photo: Getty Images

Before September’s events, Doyle had to deal with a leaked document prepared by management in June. The document outlined sweeping changes to workplace practices at the airline.

It is extremely regrettable that the document has been put into the public domain and that there has been media coverage of some of the detail of the document before these discussions fully concluded…It had been my intention to wait until the discussions were fully finalised before communicating the detail directly to you,” -Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus chief executive via Independent.ie

One change of many

Doyle’s new appointment is just one of several. The following is IAG’s full list of announced changes:

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• Alex Cruz, British Airways chairman and chief executive, is to step down as chief executive and remain the airline’s non-executive chairman.
• Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus chairman and chief executive, will become the new chief executive of British Airways and take over as chairman after a transition period.
• Fernando Candela, LEVEL chief executive, is joining the Group’s management committee in a new role of chief transformation officer.
• At Aer Lingus, Donal Moriarty, currently the airline’s chief corporate affairs officer, will become interim chief executive. A permanent appointment will be announced in due course.

British Airways, Alex Cruz, Resignation
Final boarding has been called for British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz. Photo: Getty Images

Announcing the changes, IAG chief executive, Luis Gallego, said,

”IAG has proved itself to be one of the world’s leading airline groups with a portfolio of successful companies. 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.”

How do you think Doyle will manage British Airways differently than Cruz? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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