British Airways today confirmed the hunt was on to find a new operations and customer services boss in the wake of the Heathrow Terminal 5 shambles amid reports the recruit will be groomed to succeed chief Willie Walsh.
The airline is searching for a new chief operations officer – a role created after two executives quit following the T5 fiasco – who would reportedly be lined-up to succeed Mr Walsh, the carrier’s chief executive who has come under heavy criticism since the terminal opening debacle.
BA said it was “very premature” to speculate on plans to promote the recruit to the top job, but said the role was extremely challenging, with responsibility for 20,000 staff.
The post will oversee BA’s operations on the ground and in the air, alongside customer services after the two roles were merged in light of the disastrous T5 opening in March, which saw flights cancelled and delayed as baggage troubles caused chaos.
BA said today: “The process of appointing a chief operating office is ongoing and we are using a variety of ways to find the best candidate.
“We are looking for a person who has a wide range of operational experience and customer service knowledge. They must be at a very senior level already within their organisation and have proven leadership skills.
“The person will report directly to Willie Walsh and have in excess of 20,000 people in their department.”
Mr Walsh has been frank in admitting the airline’s failings in the new terminal woes, but has come under pressure from customers and shareholders.
So far the only scalps claimed are former director of customer services David Noyes and director of operations Gareth Kirkwood, who quit last month.
BA could face further criticism this week when it unveils full year figures, with reports suggesting that it could issue a profits warning as it battles against soaring jet fuel costs.
Friday’s figures will not show any financial hit from the T5 troubles, coming right at the end of its financial year, but they are likely to reveal the true cost of BA’s vulnerability to oil price hikes.
Despite its cost pressures, BA is expected to have increased pre-tax profits by 44% to £877m (€1.1bn). Its full-year success is set to come after it banked a better-than-expected 35% hike in profits for the nine months to December, at £788m (€994m), with a weak US dollar helping offset the extra fuel costs.