Willie Walsh has said he’ll be “wandering around London” looking for someone to go for a drink with once he retires as IAG chief executive next month. And he joked that a newspaper has already been in touch about doing up his obituary.
A native of Drumcondra in Dublin, Mr Walsh (58) started his career as a cadet pilot with Aer Lingus, eventually becoming its chief executive in 2001. He went on to become chief executive of British Airways before merging the carrier with Iberia to create IAG, which now also owns Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level.
He’s regarded as one of the world’s top aviation executives.
“I’m going to be around for the next four weeks [at IAG],” he said this morning.
“One of the funniest things that’s happened is that one of the newspapers has been on to us about writing my obituary. They said they want to get ahead. They want to have it on file.
“F**k me, I’m leaving the industry, I’m not planning on leaving the planet,” he joked.
Mr Walsh announced last year that he’ll leave the airline group he helped to create. He’s being succeeded by Luis Gallego, who was the chief executive of Iberia.
Mr Walsh was praised by analysts today for his tenure at the group.
“I think I speak for everyone Willie, when I say a fond good riddance from us all,” joked Exane analyst James Hollins.
“I’m looking forward to the next month,” said Mr Walsh, adding that IAG is being left in capable hands with Mr Gallego. “[I’m] still full engaged, I can assure you. But on the March 26 at midnight I’m handing him the keys and at that stage on the 27th, I’ll be wandering around London looking for someone to have a drink with.”
“Stay out of my way,” he joked, “unless you want some trouble.”