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Dubliner Willie Walsh has been flying high since his teens


Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

WILLIE Walsh's meteoric rise to the top of the airline industry should have come as no surprise - he was flying planes before he could drive.

The northsider joined Aer Lingus as a cadet pilot in 1979 aged just 17.

He rose through the ranks and moved into management - something almost unheard of in the industry.

In 1998 he was appointed head of Futura, Aer lingus's Spanish charter wing.

Soon after 9/11 Walsh (pictured inset in 2002) was drafted in to save the national airline from the brink of collapse.

He spared not even the artwork in his mission to cut costs at the company, selling off some pricey paintings on the office walls.

Despite his corporate success and his €7.8m income from IAG through salary and bonuses last year, the airline chief is said to be unassuming and very down to earth.

He splits his time between his London home and a modest house in Donabate, Co Dublin. The mogul has said that he would like to retire to the seaside town.

Once upon a time his plan was to retire at 55, but it is unclear if he will stay on longer than planned.

He is known for not taking holidays and, by his own admission, is not very talented on the golf course.

However members of his former club Balcarrick Golf Club in Donabate described him as a "good character".

"The first time I golfed with him I didn't even know who he was," one golfer told the Herald. "He's a very nice fellow and not at all pretentious."