Willie Walsh has indicated that he sees Iberia's Luis Gallego or BA's Alex Cruz as potential successors as chief executive of Aer Lingus owner International Consolidated Airlines' Group (IAG).
In an interview in the current issue of Airline Business, Mr Walsh confirms that he has a 12-month rolling contract as the group's chief executive and has no intention of retiring. "I'm happy to stay as long as the board are happy," he says.
However, he acknowledges that Luis Gallego, chief executive of one group's Spanish carriers, Iberia, and Alex Cruz, who heads another of its airlines, BA, as candidates to ultimately lead the overall group.
IAG, owner of four airlines, has a framework for bringing through senior executives that uses smaller divisions such as Iberia Express as an initial testinground.
“Iberia Express is the like the Under-21 team,” he tells the magazine. “We put them in there, we give them a challenging job and if they succeed we bring them back into the first team and stick them on the bench.”
Both Mr Gallego and Javier Sanchez-Prieto, chief executive of its second Spanish carrier, Vueling, came through Iberia Express. Mr Cruz formerly led Vueling.
IAG bought Aer Lingus last year for €1.4 billion. Mr Walsh was chief executive of the Irish airline between 2001 and 2005, before joining BA and ultimately creating the overall group by merging the Britsh and Spanish flagships and then buying Vueling.