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IAG looked inside to replace Aer Lingus CEO Stephen Kavanagh, who is stepping down from his role on January 1, 2019 to “pursue other interests.”

The airline group that owns Aer Lingus is appointing Sean Doyle, currently British Airways director of network, fleet and alliances, to succeed Kavanagh.

Kavanagh will remain on the airline’s board as a non-executive director.

“Stephen has been an exceptional chief executive and has transformed and modernised Aer Lingus,” Willie Walsh, IAG CEO and Aer Lingus chairman, said.

Doyle joined British Airways in 1998 and has had financial, strategy, commercial and alliance roles for British Airways. He joined the airline’s executive management committee in 2016.

“Sean has successfully held a variety of roles within British Airways, acquiring significant expertise and experience, which makes him ideally suited to lead Aer Lingus,” Walsh said.

As part of the changes, Aer Lingus’s chief operating officer, Mike Rutter, has extended his contract and will work alongside Doyle.

Stephen Kavanagh had played an instrumental role in Aer Lingus growing profitability and expansion.  Equally Sean Doyle has developed a strong track record at British Airways overseeing its own network development and will, I’m sure apply this experience to his new role,” said aviation analyst John Strickland.

Challenges Ahead

Doyle takes over an airline that seems to be benefitting from being part of the wider IAG group with cost saving in areas such as maintenance and IT.

In the six months to the end of June 2018, Aer Lingus grew revenues 8 percent to $1 billion (€899 million) with operating profit up 96 percent to $120 million (€104 million.)

That’s not to say the airline is having it all its own way. A submission to Ireland’s Labor Court in 2017 outlined the challenges it faced, particularly as a result of low-cost competition from Norwegian.

Norwegian, which has had well-documented problems of its own, has grown its capacity out of Dublin over the last few years, putting pressure on Aer Lingus’s lucrative North American route network.

IAG bought Aer Lingus in 2015 after a protracted takeover process.

Photo Credit: An Aer Lingus A320. The airline is getting a new CEO. Marvin Mutz / Flickr