By Neil Halligan
Christoph Mueller will vacate key role next May; Etihad Airways holds 4.9% stake in Irish airline
Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller will step down from his role as CEO in May next year, the airline has confirmed.
Mueller was appointed as CEO in July 2009 and has served as an executive director since September 2009.
The five-year reign has been a fairly successful one for Mueller. In 2008, the year before he joined, the airline’s operations lost $23 million, and in 2013 they earned a profit of $63.5 million.
The company was going through a comprehensive cost-cutting and restructuring programme when he was appointed, and during his five years, he has had to guide the airline through a hostile takeover bid from rival Irish carrier Ryanair.
More recently, Mueller has had to deal with a row with workers over a €750 million ($1m) hole in the pension scheme it shares with Dublin Airport Authority. It is hoped this will be finally resolved by the end of this year.
“The last five years has involved very hard work for the entire team at Aer Lingus and it is rewarding to see that the company is well positioned both strategically and financially,” said Mueller, who will agreed to stay on until May next year in order to facilitate a handover to the new CEO.
Etihad Airways, a 4.9 percent stakeholder in Aer Lingus, increased its stake in the Irish carrier twice in two weeks in March this year, fuelling speculation at the time that the Abu Dhabi operation would buy either the Irish Government’s 25.1 percent stake or Ryanair’s 30 percent holding.
However, Etihad CEO James Hogan recently ruled out increasing the company’s stake in Aer Lingus in the near future, having first invested in 2012.
“That's where we'll stay for now,” he said in May this year. “We have a very good relationship with Aer Lingus. We codeshare. We network. We codeshare over Dublin to places like Boston that we don't operate into.”