Willie Walsh has retired from his role as International Airline Group’s chief executive after nine years.

Iberia chairman and chief executive Luis Gallego has taken up the role after IAG’s annual general meeting today. He will be tasked with adapting British Airways’ parent to aviation’s ‘new normal’.

Walsh had been due to step down earlier this year but delayed his retirement because of the pandemic.

He saw off an investor revolt over his bonuses on his final day in the job, despite nearly 30% of shareholders failing to back his remuneration deal.

IAG is parent to British Airways, as well as Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling.

Luis GallegoGallego said: “It’s an honour to become IAG’s chief executive, following in Willie’s footsteps and building on all that he has achieved in the past nine years.

“This is a hugely difficult time for our industry. Not only do we face the immediate challenge of Covid but we must ensure that IAG is strong and resilient when it emerges from the crisis.

“The group was in good shape before Covid with a history of strong profitable growth. We have a portfolio of world class brands, acquired through selective M&A[mergers and acquisitions], in which we have invested effectively for the benefit of our customers while keeping costs under control.

“My goal is to ensure that IAG adapts to the ‘new normal’ in aviation and builds on its strengths to secure a strong future for the Group, our customers, shareholders and employees”.

Gallego became Iberia chief executive in March 2013 since when IAG said he turned it around, restoring profitability before the pandemic, and improved its efficiency.

Before that, he launched subsidiary Iberia Express as chief executive from January 2012 after joining from Vueling where he was chief operating officer from 2009, when the airline merged with Clickair.

From 2006 to 2009 Gallego was one of the founders of Clickair, a low-cost airline which, until its merger with Vueling, was Europe’s fastest growing airline.

He held various posts at Spanish regional airline Air Nostrum between 1997 and 2006 having started his career at BDE (INDRA), an engineering and services company.