American Airlines senior vice president, Craig Kreeger, has been selected to succeed Virgin chief executive, Steve Ridgeway, in light of his imminent retirement slated for next month. Ridgeway retires following a 23 year career with Sir Richard Branson’s airline.

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Owing to the 6 years Kreeger has spent in London as American Airlines’ head of operations and sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa, the soon to be CEO has a very good understanding of the competitive landscape in Europe and is expected to bring firsthand experience in leveling competition from Virgin’s core competitor British Airways. Kreeger has in the past worked on partnerships with British Airways and Iberia, a Spanish carrier. In fact, American and British airways are partners in the OneWorld frequent flyer alliance, where the two operate shared flights across the North Atlantic.

Kreeger, who praised Virgin for its reputation in customer service and innovation, was happy about the opportunity. “I have been competing with it for many years but have always admired its laser focus on its people, its products and its customers,” he remarked.

In the rearview, Kreeger leaves a 27 year career in American Airline. There, Kreeger served many roles in strategic, financial and commercial positions. Kreeger’s imminent departure from American comes at a time when the company has just settled a heated dispute with its pilots. The dispute flared following efforts to impose a new labor deal that would reduce costs and act as a gateway to the emergence of the carrier from bankruptcy.

Kreeger’s Appointment Coincides With Delta Partnership

Kreeger’s appointment swiftly succeeds the partnership deal with Delta Airlines. The $360 million deal, inked in December, saw Delta buy a 49 percent stake in Virgin, leaving the remaining 51 percent to Sir Richard Branson. The deal is expected to extend Virgin’s international footprint, particularly with valuable slots at London’s Heathrow Airport. In addition, the deal is expected to bring more traffic to Delta’s expansive U.S network.