Following Thursday’s news that Willie Walsh will retire in June, John Strickland, assesses the International Airlines Group chief executive’s "enviable legacy" and his impact on the aviation industry.
Willie Walsh started his career as a pilot with Aer Lingus and is one of the few industry leaders who has succeeded in crossing the divide from the technical capability of flying an aircraft to demonstrating the broad skills required to run a successful airline.
This gave him a valuable understanding of the real world daily operational complexity which airlines face, something not always sufficiently recognised by many senior airline executives.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet with Walsh on many occasions and always enjoyed our discussions and admired his straight-forward, down-to-earth sincerity.
What he says has always made sense to me.
Sometimes direct or blunt, but with Walsh, what you see is what you get, he tells it like it is. His track record is phenomenal. Just one of his achievements would look impressive on a CV but there’s a long list.
Nor are these run of the mill ’normal’ business achievements either, each one has been both challenging and difficult to accomplish, demonstrating Walsh’s great determination and single mindedness in the pursuit of his goals.