Former International Airlines Group and British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh is set to become the director general of Iata.

Walsh is due to take over the role in April from Alexandre de Juniac, who joined Iata in 2016.

The association said former Air France-KLM chairman and chief executive De Juniac had made known his intention to leave a number of months ago to allow for a smooth leadership transition.

Walsh stepped down from IAG in September after delaying the move to assist with the company’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The Iata board of governors will recommend his appointment as the association’s eighth director general at its AGM on Tuesday.

De Juniac said: “I did not come to this decision lightly. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve the global air transport industry—what I call the business of freedom—as the head of Iata.

“Over the last years Iata has strategically increased its relevance as the voice of the global airline industry. This has been evident in the Covid-19 crisis.

“Iata has set the course to restore air connectivity amid the pandemic with systematic pre-departure testing. We are well into preparations to fulfil critical vaccine distribution needs

“In parallel, we have restructured Iata to survive the crisis and be ready to support the industry recovery with an organisation dimensioned to serve a smaller industry.”

He added: “We have a motivated team that is determined to get the job done. The building blocks for an industry recovery are in place. And now is the right time to hand over Iata’s leadership for the long process of recovery,”

Carsten Spohr, chair of the Iata board of governors and chief executive of Lufthansa, said: “Alexandre has led our industry in extraordinary times. Under his leadership Iata has become a stronger and an even more relevant organisation.

“I am joined by all the members of the board of governors in thanking him for his service and wishing him well in his next endeavours.

“I am also pleased that we are able to present a very capable candidate to the 76th Iata AGM to succeed Alexandre in this important role. I am convinced that Willie will be a great director general for IATA.”