Former pilot and ex-head of Irish airline Aer Lingus Willie Walsh is to take over the controls at British Airways.

He has been named as ceo of London-headquartered BA in place of Australian Rod Eddington, who is returning down-under after five years at the helm.

Walsh (43), who is expected to take up his new role in the autumn, resigned as ceo of the Irish national carrier at the beginning of the year. It followed his failure in a management buy-out last summer and failure to persuade the Irish government to privatise the airline.

He joined Aer Lingus as a cadet pilot in 1979 and worked his way up through the ranks. He became ceo in 2001 and pulled his failing employer from the brink of bankruptcy, modelling his strategy on that of low cost rivals EasyJet and Ryanair.

Martin Broughton, BA chairman, says Walsh will "focus his efforts and energies on what our customer base demands, which are quality service and value for money".

BA is ten times bigger than Aer Lingus and is about to call for more cost cutting and changes in working practices as it prepares to move into the new fifth terminal at London's Heathrow Airport.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff