has named executive Craig Kreeger successor to CEO Steve Ridgway, who is retiring from the airline.
Kreeger’s recruitment comes just weeks aftersigned an agreement to acquire a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic from for £220 million ($360 million) and speculation that the U.K. carrier will join the alliance. The new CEO brings a wealth of alliance knowledge and experience to Virgin Atlantic, which is unaligned and has been fiercely critical of the transatlantic joint venture of developed by rival (BA) with American and .
Kreeger has worked at American for 27 years in commercial, financial and strategic roles, and in 2012 was appointed senior VP-customer service. He spent six years in London as SVP-international and was responsible for American’s operations and sales throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. He has worked on American’s joint ventures with BA and Iberia across the Atlantic, and the airline’s partnership within the Pacific.
“We believe Craig has the experience and passion to drive Virgin Atlantic forward and capitalise on the opportunities created by our new venture with Delta Airlines,” Virgin Atlantic President Richard Branson says in a statement.
Virgin Atlantic and Delta intend to file an application with the U.S. Transportation Department for antitrust immunity of their new transatlantic cooperation, which will operate independently from Delta’s existing joint venture with- and , a Virgin spokeswoman tells Aviation Week. The transaction, which also will be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department and the European Union’s competition regulator, is expected to be implemented by the end of 2013.
Kreeger also will oversee Virgin Atlantic’s plans to launch a domestic short-haul operation, which will connectwith Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester.
Kreeger, who will assume his new role Feb. 1, is the second American executive to join Virgin Atlantic in recent months; Maria Sebastian in August left her position as American’s managing director of worldwide advertising, promotions and product marketing to become Virgin Atlantic’s director of worldwide sales.
Julie Southern, who was seen as an internal candidate for the CEO post, will remain Virgin Atlantic’s chief commercial officer. Ridgway in September announced that he would retire this year.
American, which has named VP-Operations Planning and Performance Jonathan Snook as Kreeger’s successor, in a statement says, “Craig has always been a driving force at American—bringing innovation and transformation to so many parts of our airline for more than 25 years. Most recently, Craig aligned and consolidated a global team focused on improving the customer experience throughout all areas of travel. On behalf of the people of American, I thank Craig for his vision and dedication, and wish him the best as he returns to London to become Chief Executive at Virgin Atlantic.”