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BA’s Spanish CEO Álex Cruz targeted over weekend travel chaos

Chief exec refuses to step down despite criticism over handling of crisis that left thousands stranded

A Spanish executive is in the eye of the storm over an IT crash at British Airways that caused travel chaos this past weekend. The CEO’s nationality is apparently the most relevant part of Álex Cruz’s resume, at least to the influential British tabloid Daily Mail, which headlined its story “BA’s Spanish boss FINALLY apologizes to customers.”

Alex Cruz
Alex Cruz, British Airways CEO.

Cruz, a 50-year-old from Bilbao with 10 years’ experience in the industry, is described as “controversial” and “beleaguered” by a newspaper that is the loudspeaker for Brexit and which embodies English nationalism.

The paper says there are calls for resignation for a man who outsourced hundreds of jobs to India in 2016. Cruz has denied that this move caused the IT crash that affected thousands of travelers over the weekend and refuses to step down over it.

The ‘Daily Mail’ said Cruz “tried to gag staff from commenting on the meltdown”

Speaking on Sky News, Cruz said that the cancellations and delays had affected 75,000 people. He also said that the problem was triggered at a local data center.

“I can confirm that all the parties involved around this particular event have not been involved in any type of outsourcing in any foreign country,” he told Sky News.

Following scenes of chaos on Saturday and Sunday, the company said that Gatwick airport was back to normal on Monday. At Heathrow, Britain’s largest airport, long-haul connections are operating normally, but short-haul flights within Europe continue to accumulate problems.

The Daily Mail said that Cruz “tried to gag staff from commenting on the computer meltdown.”

Coverage continued with an article by Robert Hardman, the queen’s biographer, suggesting that the word “British” should be dropped from British Airways.

Cruz has been dealing with criticism that the jewel in the crown of British aviation was handed over to a Spaniard

Iberia and BA merged in 2011 to create the holding company International Airlines Group (IAG), the sixth-largest airline group in the world by revenue. IAG also owns Vueling and Aer Lingus.

Álex Cruz took over BA in April 2016 after a successful career at Vueling, which he had headed since 2009. Before that, he worked at ClickAir and as an industry analyst.

Since his appointment, Cruz has been dealing with criticism that the jewel in the crown of British aviation was handed over to a Spaniard.

It is not just the tabloids who are criticizing his handling of the weekend meltdown. In an editorial, the Financial Times called Cruz’s explanations “completely inadequate” saying that he should be ruthless with the subordinates involved in the chaos, but that as CEO he is ultimately responsible.

English version by Susana Urra.

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