He has been with British Airways for most of his life, except for a brief stint at another IAG subsidiary, Aer Lingus. He has before him a gigantic challenge: to overcome the pandemic crisis, especially bloody for the airlines, as well as to rebuild the bridges broken with employees and authorities by his predecessor, the Spanish Alex Cruz, and the effects of Brexit. Sean Doyle (Youghal, Ireland, 49 years old) is the new CEO of the British flag carrier.
The rise of Doyle is part of Luis Gallego’s revolution, when he finally released (and after a delay of months due to Covid-19) the highest position of IAG. Carlos Gómez Suárez has been appointed CEO of Iberia Express and Fernando Candela, CEO of Level, has joined the group’s management committee assuming the new position of director of transformation. Donal Moriarty is Acting Head of Aer Lingus.
Sean Doyle is married and has a son. He was born and raised in County Cork, with a BA in Management Accounting from University College Cork. He comes from a famous family of players from hurling, an Irish sport played with sticks and ball, a kind of hockey.
His father, Oliver, was a policeman and worked in Youghal, a seaport in Cork, which has about 8,000 inhabitants; was hurler high level. Sean is very fond of, and also continues to maintain ties with his native region.
His first job was in a small print shop, and he joined British Airways in 1998 as a financial analyst. By then the company was going from strength to strength, and the Concorde was still flying. He then rose through the ranks and held various senior positions, including BA CFO, head of corporate strategy and executive vice president of the Americas division. He worked especially to forge the alliance with American Airlines.
In 2016 he entered the executive management committee as head of network and fleet (deciding which routes to do and how often) and alliances (among his responsibilities were the business units of London Gatwick Airport and the domestic and European airline BA CityFlyer).
In January 2019, he was appointed Chairman and CEO of the Aer Lingus subsidiary, the Irish-flagged airline. In this short period, it has strengthened its commitment to the long-haul market with the A321neo narrow-body aircraft. Doyle is also a non-executive director of Comair Holdings, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, which operates in North American countries.
The Covid-19 pre-flight test system is one of the most pressing issues Doyle is already tackling: this week he asked the British authorities to lift the 14-day quarantine for travelers from abroad. In his opinion, plans to reduce it to one week are not enough. “The best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying. This will reduce the strain on the health system and on the surveillance of individual confinements ”.
Cruz had been little diplomatic in that sense with London, which is showing more solicitude towards the industry, as indicated by the fact that it has accepted that Heathrow airport introduce rapid tests of 80 pounds (voluntary and paid by the passengers themselves) since this week .
Then there are the negotiations to lay off 12,000 employees, almost a third of the workforce, started by Cruz. Doyle, who has a low profile, analytical character and a deep knowledge of the airline industry, is responsible for rebuilding both internal and external relationships. In the Financial Times, acquaintances of his say that he does not need to be a protagonist, but he is forceful when he thinks something is the right thing to do. There are also the issues related to Brexit, especially over British or non-British ownership of the company.
The Cruz stage
The rise of Luis Gallego has dragged several of his compatriots up, but also one, Cruz, to one side (he is now a non-executive president, although Doyle will assume the presidency after a period of transition), and also with “immediate effect ”. During his tenure, British has focused on long-distance travel and business class, the hardest hit by the coronavirus. It has also undertaken the general cost cutting of IAG, led by also Irish Willie Walsh, to counter competition from Ryanair and other low-cost lines.
Cruz faced the first British Airways pilot strike, in 2019: even British politicians have criticized him for his treatment of cabin crew. More problems: in its stage there have been important technological failures, with breaches in data security (which cost the company 200 million euros in fines) and in flight management (which left thousands of passengers in land).
The IAG forecasts are not good, and on Thursday, in the presentation of the quarterly accounts, it made it clear, with worse results than expected, and with an improvement in income that does not offset the increase in spending to move empty planes: only occupies 48.9% of the seats. Ed Cropley, an analyst at Reuters, points out that the group led by Gallego has at least more room for maneuver to adjust costs than its rivals Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, which have to answer for important public aid.
Sean Doyle, who is said to be eligible to lead the group in the future, will be the Irish quota in the most Spanish IAG.
IAG on Thursday announced worse-than-expected results for the third quarter: 1.3 billion euros in losses, compared to 920 million predicted by analysts.
Revenues were 1.2 billion, just 500 million higher than the previous quarter, in which the skies were practically closed.