Virgin Atlantic Airways has confirmed that Craig Kreeger will replace Steve Ridgway as chief executive from 1 February.
He joins from American Airlines, where he has had a 27-year career spanning commercial, financial and strategic roles in the US and around the world.
Ridgway is retiring after 23-year tenure with Virgin Atlantic and has been chief executive since 2001.
Sky News, which revealed the appointment this morning, said: ‘Virgin Atlantic…is swooping on the arch-rival of its new US shareholder [Delta] to land a new chief executive as the airline founded by Sir Richard Branson enters a crucial period in its history.
‘The American Airlines executive’s arrival is likely to be viewed in the aviation industry as a coup for Sir Richard, for whom Virgin Atlantic has always remained his flagship enterprise.’
Previous media reports had said that contenders to succeed Ridgway had been Virgin Atlantic’s chief commercial officer Julie Southern and Air New Zealand chief Rob Fyfe.
Kreeger is American’s senior vice president – customer, and has broad responsibilities for customer experience at the US airline, which is a partner of Virgin rival British Airways.
Sky News added that Kreeger has ‘significant experience’ of Heathrow airport, Virgin’s biggest operational hub, having been based in London for several years from 2003, where he oversaw American’s sales and ground operations activities in Europe and Asia.
Sir Richard announced in December that Delta will invest $360m in Virgin Atlantic, acquiring a 49% stake currently held by Singapore Airlines. Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson will remain the majority 51%.
Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson said: ‘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.’
Ridgway, who will hand over his responsibilities to Kreeger during February, added: ‘He will be taking over at a time when the airline enters a new phase – with the Delta deal to implement, the commencement of short-haul competition for BA on UK domestic routes – as well as the arrival of the ultra-efficient 787 fleet in 2014.’
Kreeger commented: ‘I have been competing with [Virgin Atlantic] for many years but have always admired its laser focus on its people, its products and its customers.’
To see the Sky News article, click here.
To see the Virgin Atlantic statement, click here.
To see Kreeger’s biography from American Airlines, click here.