Today, 24NOV20, at the 76th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM), the IATA Board of Governors will be recommending that Willie Walsh be appointed as Alexandre de Juniac’s successor. Though IATA had recommended the extension of Alexandre de Juniac’s tenure as its Director General and CEO, last December, de Juniac had made it clear that he would be stepping down once a replacement was found and a smooth handover could be secured.
The change will take place on 31MAR21. Alexandre de Juniac will then step down, paving the way for IATA’s 8th Director General, Willie Walsh, on 01APR21. In his statement, de Juniac said "I
did not come to this decision lightly. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve the global air transport industry—what I call the business of freedom—as the head of IATA. 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. IATA has set the course to restore air connectivity
amid the pandemic with systematic pre-departure testing. We are well into preparations to fulfil critical vaccine distribution needs. In parallel, we have restructured IATA to survive the crisis
and be ready to support the industry recovery with an organization dimensioned to serve a smaller industry. And we have a motivated team that is determined to get the job done. 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."
He will, by then, have seen the industry through what he described in JUN20 as “the worst year in the history of aviation.”
Navigating through crisis
This past year is one that no one could have prepared for. De Juniac’s IATA team has spent many months fighting to also keep cargo operations running as most passenger operations remained grounded. They called on governments to exclude cargo operations from COVID-19 travel restrictions, such as quarantines, and requested support for temporary traffic rights as well as financial leeway when it came to overfly charges, parking fees, and slot restrictions.
A stronger, more relevant organization
Carsten Spohr, Chair of the IATA Board of Governors and CEO of Lufthansa thanked de Juniac for the four years of service since joining IATA on 01SEP16, following his previous post as Chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM, "Alexandre has led our industry in extraordinary times. Under his leadership IATA has become a stronger and an even more relevant organization. I am joined by all the members of the Board of Governors in thanking him for his service and wishing him well in his next endeavors. I am also pleased that we are able to present a very capable candidate to the 76th IATA AGM to succeed Alexandre in this important role. I am convinced that Willie will be a great Director General for IATA."
41 years of aviation experience
With Willie Walsh, who recently stepped down as CEO of IAG in SEP20, IATA will gain a Director General with proven experience of navigating companies out of financial difficulties, a strong strategist and networker, and, having started out as an Aer Lingus pilot, a man able to act quickly and decisively in a time of crisis. CFG hopes that he will give cargo a greater standing both within the association and discussions with governments and authorities and will find a worthy successor to Glyn Hughes’ cargo position, too.
CFG asked Stan Wraight, President and CEO of Strategic Aviation Solutions International, to comment on the IATA personnel changes. In contrast to the praises, he is critical of de Juniac's and IATA's performance in cargo:
“IATA lost its way when it decided that ex airline CEOs make the best Director Generals and did not stipulate that they should be good ex CEOs. The qualifications should suit the mandate and
under the mandate of Giovanni Bisignani, the decline started, by saying IATA has to be a commercial profit center not a vehicle for the common good, and no one took any steps to fix it
Its original mandate was to be an airline association that was supposed to find in operational and safety issues, government issues etc., solutions for common problems or issues, not a retail arm to get into so many commercial things it should not, just to make money. Discouraged staff, huge brain drain and rot.
Willie Walsh is an extremely well-respected manager, a person who understood and keeps understanding the airlines’ need for change, and went about breaking a lot of old school traditions and practices to put the business he was running on a strong footing. No nonsense, certainly not the most loved by his staff, I would imagine, but his management skills cannot be disputed.
That said will he bring IATA back to its roots, get people to believe IATA still can be relevant, stop the rot? I certainly hope so, but time will tell. The airline business needs more than ever cargo to achieve a status of core business in the thinking in IATA. That has not been there and it has to return, or IATA will be irrelevant in air logistics new norm.
We are facing a new world economy, and that part of the air cargo business so long relegated to products for profit for IATA, versus what the world BCOs want from scheduled airlines in air cargo must change.”
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