Changes at the top for IATA


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced several leadership changes, which were approved at the 76th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 24 November. 

The three key changes are as follows:

  • Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, is now the Chair of IATA’s Board of Governors (BoG), succeeding Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa (Chair from 2019-2020). Hayes’ term begins immediately and will end at the conclusion of the Association’s 78th Annual General Meeting to be held in 2022. A term is usually one year, but Hayes is serving this extended term covering two AGMs due the disruption to governance cycles necessitated by the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Rickard Gustafson, CEO of SAS Group, will serve as Chairman of the BoG from the conclusion of the 78th IATA AGM in 2022 until the conclusion of the 79th AGM in 2023, following Hayes’ term.
  • Willie Walsh, former CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG), will become IATA’s eighth Director General from 1 April 2021. He will succeed Alexandre de Juniac, who has led IATA since 2016 and will step down from IATA at the end of March 2021.

“I am pleased to be ending my term as Chair of the IATA BoG with strong leadership in place to see IATA through the crisis and lead the industry towards recovery. I thank all the members of the BoG and Alexandre for their support over the 18 months that I have served as BoG Chair – particularly during the crisis period,” said Spohr.

“That support enabled extraordinary efforts by IATA during the crisis. Those efforts have made our association even more relevant. With today’s leadership announcements we can be assured that IATA remains in good hands. Robin [Hayes] will be a strong leader for the BoG. I am confident that Alexandre [de Juniac] will continue to be an authoritative voice for the industry as he completes his term as Director General and CEO. And Willie [Walsh] will take up the mantle from April with the fierce leadership determination for which he is well-known,” added Spohr. 

Robin Hayes also made a statement: “The expectations for IATA’s leadership are high. Managing through the crisis is, of course, at the top of the agenda. We must safely re-open borders and build back the vital global connectivity that has been lost in this crisis. There is a great expectation for aviation’s role in the global distribution of a vaccines when they are ready.  Safely re-starting large parts of the industry after months of being grounded is a challenge that will require IATA to work with governments globally.”

Not all of IATA’s work is Covid-related of course, as Hayes added: “In addition to Covid-19 related work, we have a clear mandate to meet our 2050 goal to cut net aviation emissions to half of 2005 levels, and explore pathways to net-zero globally. I look forward to driving these priorities forward with the support of Alexandre, Willie, the BoG and all our members.”

Hayes was named president of JetBlue in 2014 and appointed CEO in 2015, a position that also encompasses subsidiaries JetBlue Technology Ventures and JetBlue Travel Products. He joined JetBlue in 2008 as executive vice president and chief commercial officer after a 19-year career with British Airways.  

“These next months will be critical,” said de Juniac. “There is much work to be done to re-open borders with testing. And we are making preparations for the eventual global distribution of vaccines. I look forward to working with Robin to move as far as we can on these and other critical IATA projects before handing over to Willie during March.”

Walsh added, “I am honoured by the confidence placed in me to take on the responsibilities of IATA Director General. Associations play a critical role in our industry and none is more important than IATA. It must be a forceful advocate for the industry – moving forward crisis recovery priorities, ensuring sustainability, and helping airlines to survive by lowering costs, reducing taxes and eliminating regulatory blockers to success. Many of IATA’s services are essential for airlines to do business, including the settlement systems which in normal times handle about half the industry’s revenue – over US$400 billion a year.”

“IATA’s industry standards are essential for safe and efficient global operations,” Walsh continued. “The job of IATA Director General comes with great responsibility for an industry that is critical to the economic and social wellbeing of the world. I look forward to continuing the transformation started by Alexandre, making IATA an even more effective association that meets the needs of its members and exceeds their expectations.”

Walsh served as CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG) from its creation under his leadership in 2011 until 2020, and as CEO of British Airways from 2005-2011. He also served as CEO of Aer Lingus from 2001-2005 after a career at that airline and its associated companies which began when he joined as a pilot cadet in 1979. Walsh is very familiar with IATA, having served on its Board of Governors for almost 13 years between 2005 to 2018, including as Chair (2016-2017).

You can read and watch Willie Walsh’s acceptance speech HERE.

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Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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