Virgin Atlantic Confirms Craig Kreeger As CEO
Virgin Atlantic has confirmed the appointment of Craig Kreeger, the boss of American Airlines, as its new chief executive.
Details of Mr Kreeger's appointment were first revealed by Sky News City Editor Mark Kleinman.
Mr Kreeger is to join the carrier on February 1.
American Airlines has a key transatlantic alliance with British Airways (BA) - the bitter rival to Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic.
Mr Kreeger has been with American for 27 years, and will replace incumbent Steve Ridgway, who has been Virgin CEO since 2001.
Boss Sir Richard Branson said: "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.
"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."
Speaking about the headhunting of the key executive, Kleinman said: "His 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.
"As American's head of customer service, Mr Kreeger is credited with overseeing improvements on one of the biggest US airlines by passenger numbers."
The recruitment of a successor to Mr Ridgway comes just weeks after Delta Air Lines, the big US-based carrier, acquired a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic from Singapore Airlines for $360m (£220m).
The fate of Singapore Airlines' stake had cast a shadow over Virgin's future for several years, with the Asian carrier making little secret of its desire to offload the shareholding - having written down its £600m investment to zero.
Virgin Atlantic remains a minnow when measured against BA, although some of Virgin's other airline ventures, including its domestic US carrier, have been commercially successful.
Flying around six million passengers annually and owning 40 aircraft, Virgin Atlantic has slumped to annual losses in recent years, hit by sharp rises in fuel prices and intense competition at Heathrow.
Flights between the UK and the US make up the most valuable long-haul market by revenue, a segment Delta was keen to secure a more lucrative slice of.