Willie Walsh became the eighth person to lead the International Air Transport Association (IATA) when he took on the role of Director General on 1 April 2021, after an airline industry career spanning over 40 years.
Walsh is deeply familiar with IATA, having served on the IATA Board of Governors for almost 13 years between 2005 to 2018, including serving as Chair (2016-2017).
Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1961, Walsh joined the country’s flag carrier Aer Lingus in 1979, as a cadet pilot, becoming a captain in 1990. One year earlier, he had moved into a management position in the airline’s øight operations department, beginning a rise that led to him being appointed Chief Executive of Futura, Aer Lingus’
Spanish charter airline in 1998.
He returned to Aer Lingus in 2000 as Chief Operations Officer (COO) and was appointed Chief Executive in October 2001 at a time when the carrier was in a grave önancial crisis following the 9.11 attacks.
Walsh led a radical restructuring that returned Aer Lingus to profitability. In 2005, Walsh was appointed Chief Executive of British Airways (BA).
He led BA through the 2008/09 Global Financial Crisis, established a transatlantic joint business venture with Iberia, Finnair and American Airlines, and oversaw the 2011 merger of BA and Iberia under a newly established parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG). Walsh served as Chief Executive of IAG from its inception until he retired in September 2020.
At IATA, Walsh will work from the association’s main offices in Montreal, Canada and Geneva, Switzerland. A citizen of Ireland, Walsh holds a Master of Science and Business Administration from Trinity College, Dublin.