The boss of low-cost airline easyJet is to leave the company next summer, it was announced today.
Andy Harrison, who joined easyJet from motoring group RAC in December 2005, will step down as chief executive at the end of June in order to “seek new challenges”.
The airline also confirmed that Sir Michael Rake will take over as its new chairman from next month, having joined the company's board in the summer. He is also chairman of telecoms group BT.
EasyJet has been one of the few airlines to make a profit in the last year, although it has not been without its problems in the boardroom.
It recently resolved a long-running spat with the airline's founder and biggest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou over growth plans, announcing the board had reached agreement on a “prudent” fleet expansion programme.
Sir Stelios last year increased his personal stake in the business to almost 27% amid the row over strategy.
The flamboyant easyGroup |empire millionaire wanted the board to consider maintaining dividend payouts by scaling back growth plans to match market conditions.
Interim chairman Sir David Michels, who is remaining with the company as senior independent director, paid tribute to Mr Harrison today.
He said: “EasyJet has been the best performing European airline through the recession and we thank Andy for his considerable contribution during this period and his leadership of the company over the last four years.
Meanwhile, easyJet is replacing the five Boeing 737s it operates from Belfast International Airport with five new Airbus 319s.
The first passengers on one of the new aircraft will fly tomorrow to Amsterdam and Luton.
The four other planes will be phased in over the winter and a sixth will operate from the Belfast base from March next year.
The 319 has slightly more seats than the Boeing 737.