Factbox: A look at British Airways-owner IAG's new first-in-command

(Reuters) - Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways-owner IAG ICAG.L, will step down from the airlines group he helped to build later this year and hand the reins to Luis Gallego.

Gallego, 51, is the CEO of IAG-owned Iberia.

Born in Madrid, he began his career in the Spanish Air Force, where he trained officers, and has degrees in aeronautical engineering from Madrid’s Politécnica University and in business management from the IESE Business School.

He later worked for the Spanish airline Aviaco and from 1997 to 2006, he held several positions at Air Nostrum.

Gallego became production director at clickair, a low-cost carrier founded by Iberia and based in Barcelona, and kept that position when the airline merged with Spanish low-cost airline Vueling.

He was commissioned by Iberia to found Iberia Express in 2012, where he was CEO until he moved to Iberia, first as CEO in 2013, and since 2014 as executive chairman.

In his first year as CEO of Iberia he cut the airline’s losses by half, while in his second year, he made Iberia profitable after six years of operating losses.

When asked about teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s no flying policy at the COP25 climate change summit in Madrid, Gallego said, “It’s not a question of flying or not. Upwards of 1,500 kilometres there is no alternative to the airplane.”

Sources: Iberia website, press team

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; editing by Philippa Fletcher