Today, 09 September 2012, marks the news of one of the industry’s most influential CEOs stepping down from his position as CEO of Virgin Atlantic. Steve Ridgeway started his career with Virgin Atlantic in 1989 when he was appointed Managing Director of the industry’s first automated frequent flyer programme, Virgin Freeway. In 1994, he was appointed Executive Director of Customer Services, and then 4 years later, Managing Director. He had continued his fast track through Virgin’s management, and took helm of Virgin Atlantic in 2001, where he has sat as CEO ever since.
Steve’s reign at Virgin has seen it expand from a fleet of two 747’s to a long haul fleet of 40 and growing, carrying 6 million travellers every year. “My time with Virgin Atlantic has been nothing short of an adventure. I’ve seen many great times and a few bad, and have always remained firm that we must offer something different to that of our competitors. Our staff, both on the ground and in the air, deliver a service that others could only hope to copy. I will be leaving the airline as it embarks on a new era of flying – and I am confident that it will continue to soar and enjoy success for many years to come,” Mr. Ridgeway mentioned.
Steve’s vision wasn’t just for Virgin, but for the airline industry as a whole, and his constant outspoken challenge of regulations, deals and governmental decisions has been a huge success for the UK aviation industry. Virgin Atlantic, under Steve’s vision, was the first to pioneer Premium economy, onboard bars, the phenomenally successful Upper Class herringbone configuration, as well as the award winning Clubhouses, all game changers in the industry.
In Spring 2013, Steve Ridgeway’s position will be filled by a yet unnamed suitor. According to a recent press release, Sir Richard Branson has been in talks with Steve since earlier this year about the resignation, so it is perhaps a little unusual for there not to be a replacement already standing in the wings, but obviously finding a suitable and equal replacement has to be tough. Steve Ridgeway has left the company in a good position though, with an expanding route network, a new Upper Class product, a fleet renewal programme and obviously ever improving Clubhouses, the next incarnation will only have to follow a similar formulae to prove themselves a success. There is no news of where he will be moving on to either, it is mentioned in the press release that he is ‘retiring’ from the airline, but Sir Richard Branson has hinted at further work with the Virgin group may be on the cards:
“Steve has been a close friend and confidant since the early days when we bounced across the Atlantic ocean in Virgin Atlantic Challenger; bringing the Blue Riband back to the UK. He has been a hands-on, inspirational leader and has shaped the airline into the company it is today with his carefully developed management team. His industry knowledge and business acumen has ensured Virgin Atlantic remains a consumer favourite. He will be very much involved with the airline into next year and will doubtlessly be involved in other Virgin projects as we value his skills so highly. I personally thank him for his dedication to Virgin Atlantic over the past 23 years.”
As soon as we have more information on this story here at TheDesignAir, we’ll let you know…