MIAMI – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today announced that Willie Walsh has begun his role as the organization’s director-general, succeeding Alexandre de Juniac.

He joins the industry association after a 40-year career in the airline industry. Walsh retired from the International Airlines Group (IAG) in September 2020 after serving as its CEO since its inception in 2011.

Prior to that he was CEO of British Airways (BA) from 2005-2011 and CEO of Aer Lingus (EI) from 2001-2005. He began his career in aviation at Aer Lingus in 1979 as a cadet pilot.

“I am passionate about our industry and about the critical work that IATA does on behalf of its members, never more so than during the COVID-19 crisis,” Walsh said in an IATA news release.

“IATA has been at the forefront of efforts to restart global connectivity, including developing the IATA Travel Pass. Less visible but of equal importance, airlines continue to rely on IATA’s financial settlement systems, Timatic and other vital services to support their day-to-day operations.”

IATA Headquarters. Photo: IATA

‘Forceful Voice’

Walsh said IATA is focused on the full return of air travel. “Together, the IATA team is absolutely focused on restoring the freedom of movement that airlines provide to billions of people around the world,” he said. “That means your freedom to visit friends and family, to meet critical business partners, to secure and retain vital contracts, and to explore our wonderful planet.”

The Irishman said his goal is to “ensure that IATA is a forceful voice supporting the success of global air transport.”

“We will work with supporters and critics alike to deliver on our commitments to an environmentally sustainable airline industry,” Walsh said. “It’s my job to make sure that governments, which rely on the economic and social benefits our industry generates, also understand the policies we need to deliver those benefits.”

Walsh was confirmed as IATA’s eighth director-general in November. He served on IATA’s Board of Governors between 2005 and 2018 and served as the board’s chair in 2016-2017. He will work from the Association’s Executive Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

Featured image: IATA