Steve Ridgway, CEO of Virgin Atlantic Airways, will resign in spring 2013, the airline announced Sunday.
Ridgway, a close personal friend to Richard Branson — whose Virgin Group owns 51% of Virgin Atlantic, the rest of which is owned by Singapore Airlines (PINK:SINGY) — is leading the search for his own successor. A source within the industry identified Julie Southern, Virgin Atlantic’s chief commercial officer, as “a likely leading internal candidate,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The move comes at a difficult time for European airlines, which face high levels of competition and fuel costs. Additionally, Virgin Atlantic was dealt a blow when International Consolidated Airlines (PINK:ICAGY) — the parent company of British Airways, Virgin’s chief competition — acquired British Midland from Deutsche Lufthansa (PINK:DLAKY). British Midland had previously codeshared with Virgin Atlantic, providing the larger airline with connecting traffic.
Ridgway, who joined Virgin Atlantic in 1989 as the managing director of its frequent flier program, has served in his current position since 2001.
In a statement, Branson asserted that in addition to being “very much involved with the airline into next year,” Ridgway “will doubtlessly be involved in other Virgin projects.”
— Ryan Hauck, InvestorPlace