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Virgin Atlantic has today, Thursday 21 June 2018, announced that its CEO Craig Kreeger is to retire from the airline from 1 January 2019.
Craig Kreeger will be replaced by an internal appointment, Shai Weiss. Shai is currently Chief Commercial Officer and and has been with the airline since July 2014 having previously worked with a number of Virgin businesses.
Craig joined Virgin from American Airlines where he was closely involved in the launch of its transatlantic joint-venture with BA in 2010. This was in itself a radical departure for Virgin which had traditionally appointed senior executives from within.
“Plan To Win”
During his tenure Craig oversaw a number of radical changes.
These included the launch of Virgin’s transatlantic joint-venture with Delta, a reshaping of its route network, a slimming down of its Head Office, and the renewal of Virgin’s fleet with the delivery of 17 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
Craig was also the architect of Virgin’s “Plan To Win” which was intended to secure record levels of profitability by 2018, by beating the previous record of £98m in 1999.
Whilst Virgin is still a very strong brand and can market itself with a confidence and flair that few can match (aided in part by BA’s continued ability to throw PR banana skins in front of itself), consistent profitability has proved elusive. Virgin reported a loss of £28.4m before exceptional items for 2017.
The next 12 months or so should see one of the most significant events in Virgin Atlantic’s 34 year history.
Virgin and its 49% shareholder Delta are in the process of securing regulatory approval to combine their transatlantic joint-venture with that of Delta and Air France-KLM. The latter joint-venture launched in 2009 and traces its origins back further to joint-ventures between KLM and Northwest Airlines and Air France and Delta.
As part of this, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group will cede control of the airline, by selling a 31% stake in the airline to Air France-KLM. This will leave Delta as the single largest shareholder.
Virgin has today alluded to a new corporate plan which will succeed “Plan To Win”. Known as “Velocity” (and not to be confused with Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer programme), this will include the launch of the combined joint-venture with Air France-KLM. Previous announcements have indicated that this will include cost savings such as co-location at airports (which would be difficult to achieve at Heathrow) and reciprocal frequent flyer recognition.
However, not much else has been said.
2019 is already shaping up to be a significant year for Virgin Atlantic with the arrival of the first of 12 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft which will operate at both Heathrow and Gatwick. Further developments will be awaited very much with interest.