Airline boss Willie Walsh defers retirement and takes pay cut amid virus crisis

Airline boss Willie Walsh defers retirement and takes pay cut amid virus crisis

WILLIE WALSH, the CEO of International Airline Group which owns British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia, has deferred his retirement and taken a pay cut.

The announcement came as it became apparent the airline industry faces an unprecedented crisis due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dublin man Walsh was due to retire this week, but as the airline business now faces widespread bankruptcies due to the consequences of the coronavirus, he has agreed to stay on.

The news of Walsh’s pay cut was first reported by Sky News and came as the crisis deepened.

Walsh earns something in the region of £71,000 per month.

This will be cut by around £14,000 per month while he remains in the job.

The ongoing closure of much of the world's airspace and Walsh’s declaration that he will remain in his post until the coronavirus threat reduces, means he may be CEO for many months to come.

Meanwhile the British government has pledged support for the industry.

The transport secretary Grant Shapps said last week: "Coronavirus is having a crippling impact on the aviation industry and we cannot allow it to force world-leading, well-run, profitable firms out of business.

"We are extremely grateful to airport and airline teams who are continuing to help passengers get home safely.

"We stand firmly behind the sector and expect to announce a series of support measures shortly."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is in continuing discussions with the transport secretary to see how best to address this existential threat to many airlines.

Undoubtedly some airlines will fail, and air transport could be facing a complete realignment.

Many smaller budget airlines were already operating on very thin profit margins, and the COVID-19 crisis could be the final blow for some of them.

Walsh, who began his career as a cadet pilot with Aer Lingus, is the latest in a series of prominent airline executives - including Virgin Atlantic’s Shai Weiss -to agree to salary cuts due to the severity of the situation facing world transport.