Virgin Atlantic Airways has appointed Craig Keeger as its new chief executive, to gain foothold in the US aviation market with Delta Air Lines joint venture, which saw the US carrier buy 49% of Virgin Atlantic last month. Craig Keeger is the head of American Airlines, which has a key transatlantic alliance with British Airways, rival of Virgin Atlantic Airways. Craig Keeger succeeds current CEO Steve Ridgway who is retiring from the airline next month after 23 years, serving the past 11 months as the chief executive.
In the role of Virgin Atlantic’s new CEO, Craig Keeger will also be expected to make success of Virgin’s new domestic short-haul service in partnership with Irish carrier Aer Lingus.
Craig Keeger joined American Airlines in 1985 as an analyst and has held divergent roles in the commercial, financial and strategic departments in a span of 27 years. Craig Keeger also served as a senior vice president of international operations, and was appointed senior vice president in 2012.
Last month, US carrier Delta Air Lines had announced to buy 49% of Singapore Airlines’ stake in Virgin Atlantic for £224m. The Virgin-Delta deal boosts Delta’s position at London’s Heathrow Airport. The move continued a run of cut-price deals to expand Delta’s global network. In his new role, Craig Keeger is expected to kick start Virgin’s partnership with Delta.
With the Virgin-Delta joint venture, both the companies will have 36% of the business on the all-important New York-London route, although Virgin Atlantic will remain a minnow when measured against British Airways. Under the deal, Virgin Atlantic will continue to retain 51% controlling stake.
Virgin Atlantic currently has 44 airplanes flying to 34 destinations worldwide. The Richard Branson-owned carrier which flies around 6 million passengers annually posted losses last year due to higher fuel costs and tough economic conditions.