British airline easyJet appoints Johan Lundgren as new CEO

LONDON (Reuters) - British budget airline easyJet EZJ.L said on Friday its new chief executive officer would be industry veteran Johan Lundgren, a travel executive who most recently spent 12 years at rival travel firm TUI TUIT.L.

EasyJet Commercial passenger aircraft takes off in Colomiers near Toulouse, France, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Lundgren replaces Carolyn McCall, who has run easyJet since 2010 and is leaving at the end of the year to become CEO of ITV, at a tumultuous time for the industry and a busy time for the airline.

Air Berlin, Alitalia and Monarch have all gone into administration this year, a symptom of the intense price competition in the sector. But easyJet has found opportunities within the turmoil.

It has agreed a deal to buy parts of Air Berlin after its failure, and has also bid for parts of Alitalia, both while McCall’s successor was not known. EasyJet also applied for an air-operators certificate in Vienna to help shield the airline from ongoing uncertainty over Brexit.

Lundgren will become CEO on Dec. 1, and as an industry insider, represents a change of tack from McCall, who arrived at easyJet from the publishing industry.

“Johan has proven experience in European travel as CEO and in broader group roles,” easyJet chairman John Barton said in a statement.

EasyJet said McCall would stay to assist with the transition until the end of the year.

Lundgren left TUI in 2015 just one day before TUI made a major presentation on the progress of the merger between its UK and German divisions. TUI said Lundgren had been supportive of the new structure, but did not want a role within it.

In his time as deputy chief executive of TUI Travel, the company said he had increased profitability by some 48 percent from 370 million pounds to 546 million between 2011 and 2014 pounds.

He began his career with Swedish travel group Fritidsresor which was eventually acquired by TUI Travel.

His career contrasts with McCall, who was CEO at newspaper publisher Guardian Media Group before moving to easyJet.

At easyJet, McCall expanded its network to focus more on primary airports to compete with traditional carriers rather than low-cost rivals such as Ryanair RYA.I.

She has overseen an increase in passenger numbers and a trebling in the share price.

Reporting by Alistair Smout,; additional reporting by Victoria Bryan and Lina Saigol; editing by James Davey and David Evans