Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger will retire from the role at the end of year.

Shai Weiss, currently chief commercial officer and member of the Virgin Atlantic board, will take over from Kreeger on January 1.

Weiss was appointed chief financial officer in July 2014 after joining the board of the airline in 2012.

He became chief commercial officer in January 2017.

Kreeger has run the airline since February 2013 when he succeeded long-time chief executive Steve Ridgway, who is now chairman of Visit Britain.

Weiss will lead Virgin Atlantic going into an expanded joint-venture (JV) with existing transatlantic JV partner Delta Air Lines and new shareholder Air France-KLM.

Delta holds a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM agreed to acquire a 31% stake from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in July last year.

The new JV is due to commence in the second half of 2019, when Virgin Atlantic will also embark on a new corporate plan it calls Velocity.

Announcing his planned departure, Kreeger said: “Since my appointment as chief executive, I set out to ensure Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays realise their full potential by empowering our people to provide a uniquely Virgin Atlantic service.

“All this, as we made our partnership with Delta the natural choice for passengers across the Atlantic and transformed the financial performance of the company.

“Shai has supported me closely. As we embark on [new business plan] Velocity, I consider this to be the ideal time to pass the leadership baton to Shai.”

Virgin Group president Sir Richard Branson thanked Kreeger for “the fantastic job he has done leading Virgin Atlantic these past five years”.

He said: “Craig has focused our people on providing the best customer service by refreshing our onboard experience, bringing in new planes and bringing us closer to our partner Delta.

“I’ve worked closely with Shai for more than a decade and know his drive, commitment and passion mean the airline and our amazing people are in great hands.

“The next few years are exciting as we build on the opportunities created by our expanded partnership with Delta and Air France-KLM to bring in more new planes and access to more routes.”

Peter Norris, chairman of Virgin Atlantic and the Virgin Group, added: “On behalf of everyone at Virgin Atlantic I want to express our immense gratitude to Craig.

“Shai has proved he is the right leader to take Virgin Atlantic to the next level.”