American Craig Kreeger, who says he always admired Virgin Atlantic's "laser focus" when he was competing with them, is to take over as new chief executive of the airline founded by Richard Branson.
The move deepens still further the ties between Virgin Atlantic and the US aviation market. Last month America's Delta airline bought 49 per cent of Virgin from Singapore Airlines.
Kreeger, 53, succeeds CEO Steve Ridgway who is retiring next month after 23 years at Virgin Atlantic. Since becoming CEO in 2001 he has seen the airline grow from two 747s to a fleet of 44 long haul aircraft, flying six million passengers a year to 34 destinations world-wide. Ridgway will work alongside Kreeger for the next month.
The deal with Virgin is a big boost for Delta at London's Heathrow. Delta and Virgin Atlantic will now have 36 per cent of the business on the key New York-London route, nearer the 51 per cent controlled by a joint venture of British Airways and American Airlines.
"We are thrilled to welcome Craig to Virgin Atlantic. He is the right person to succeed Steve Ridgway at this dynamic and challenging time for our airline," said Richard Branson.
"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."
As part of the deal with Delta, Virgin and Branson retain a controlling 51 per cent stake. The joint venture is cooperating on services between New York and London and reciprocal frequent-flier benefits for passengers.
Kreeger, a graduate of the University of California, joined American Airlines in 1985 as an analyst and was appointed Senior Vice President in 2012. He spent six years in London as Senior Vice President, International. He has worked on AA joint ventures with British Airways and Iberia across the Atlantic, as well as its partnership with Japanese Airlines in the Pacific.
“I am delighted to be taking on the role of Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Executive," said Kreeger.
"It is a great airline renowned for its customer service and innovation. I have been competing with it for many years but have always admired its laser focus on its people, its products and its customers."