Former Airtours boss and travel veteran David Burns has died after a short illness.

Burns died on Friday, January 2, aged 52. He leaves wife Jane Shaw, who previously also worked at Airtours as marketing manager.

Burns will be remembered by many in the travel trade for his 13-year stint at the Airtours UK Leisure Group, which later became the MyTravel Group and has since merged with Thomas Cook.

He joined the group in 1987 as company solicitor and was appointed director of Airtours Holidays in 1989. Among the other roles he held were group company secretary and heading up the Going Places shop network. His final role before he left in 2000 was as Airtours accommodation chief executive.

He then moved out of travel to become chief executive of The Football League for two years, before joining Pontin’s Holidays-owner Hemmings Family Interests as director of leisure. In January 2005 he became joint managing director of the Travelsphere Group, and was tasked with integrating the newly-acquired Page & Moy business within the group.

His most recent role was as chief executive of Chill Factore, the indoor ski slope next to Manchester’s Trafford Centre.

Burns was a passionate supporter of Sheffield Wednesday and joined the board of directors at his local club Altrincham in 2007.

Long-term friend and colleague Matthew Cheetham paid tribute to David. He said: “David had more energy and enthusiasm than anyone I’ve ever known. I met him at the airport one morning at 5.45am for a flight to Holland and he had already done a five-mile run as he was training for a marathon. That evening, the full extent of his strict training regime was revealed as we shared, over dinner, several bottles of wine and David had a cigar.”

He added: “His love of football was legendary and he had been to nearly all 92 football league grounds. David was a friend to many and I will miss him.”