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IATA Announces New Leadership

Former IAG CEO Willie Walsh named director general, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes chairs the board of governors

December 1, 2020

At its 76th Annual General Meeting Nov. 24, held virtually this year, the International Air Transport Association announced changes in its leadership changes.

Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue has been named chair of the IATA board of governors, succeeding Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa. Hayes’ term starts immediately and will end with the Association’s 78th Annual General Meeting to be held in 2022.

Hayes will serve an extended term as chair covering two AGMs due the disruption to governance cycles necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Hayes became the president of JetBlue 2014 and has been the airline’s CEO since 2015, including its subsidiaries JetBlue Technology Ventures and JetBlue Travel Products. He joined JetBlue in 2008 as EVP and chief commercial officer after 19 years with British Airways.

Willie Walsh, former CEO of International Airlines Group, will become IATA’s 8th director general beginning April 1, 2021, succeeding Alexandre de Juniac, who joined IATA in September 2016 from Air France-KLM where he was chairman and CEO.

Walsh is an airline industry veteran who served as CEO of International Airlines Group from its creation in 2011 until 2020. Prior to that he was CEO of British Airways from 2005 to 2011 and CEO of Aer Lingus from 2001-2005, where he started as a pilot cadet in 1979.

Walsh has previously served on the IATA board of governors for almost 13 years, including as it chair in 2016-2017.

“The expectations for IATA’s leadership are high. Managing through the crisis is, of course, at the top of the agenda,” Hayes said. “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.”

In addition to the work needed to recover from COVID-19, Hayes said, “We have a clear mandate to meet our 2050 goal to cut net aviation emissions to half 2005 levels; and explore pathways to net zero globally.”

De Juniac commented, “Over the last years IATA has strategically increased its relevance as the voice of the global airline industry. This has been evident in the COVID-19 crisis. The building blocks for an industry recovery are in place. And now is the right time to hand over IATA’s leadership for the long process of recovery.”

Accepting the position as director general, Walsh said, “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.”