Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall is to be the new chief executive of easyJet.

The airline’s chairman Sir Michael Rake confirmed the appointment this morning which he said followed a thorough process involving a number of high calibre candidates.

He added: “Following a thorough process involving a number of high calibre candidates we have unanimously chosen a strong chief executive with the strategic ability, operational capability and passion to drive easyJet through the next stage of its development and we look forward to working with Carolyn.”

McCall, who joined the Guardian Media Group as a research planner in 1986, rose through the ranks to become chief executive in 2006.

The 48-year-old has held non-executive roles at New Look, Tesco and Lloyds TSB.

She described the opportunity to run a FTSE company of easyJet’s calibre as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Her key priorities are reported to be building on easyJet’s strengths which she believes are a strong consumer proposition, leadership positions in many of Europe’s key airports and an operating model built around simplicity and low cost.”

McCall, who won the 2008 Veuve Clicquot Business Woman award and is chair of Opportunity Now which promotes women in the workplace, replaces Andy Harrison who is to become chief executive of Whitbread.

A start date has not been confirmed.