Walsh had been expected to step down in the spring, but extended his tenure as the Covid-19 crisis engulfed the aviation sector. Gallego, who was previously chairman and chief executive of Iberia, stepped up earlier after the IAG annual general meeting.
Gallego said: “It’s an honour to become IAG’s chief executive, following in Willie’s footsteps and building on all that he has achieved in the past nine years.
“This is a hugely difficult time for our industry.
“Not only do we face the immediate challenge of Covid-19, but we must ensure that IAG is strong and resilient when it emerges from the crisis.
“The group was in good shape before Covid-19 with a history of strong profitable growth.
“My goal is to ensure that IAG adapts to the ‘new normal’ in aviation and builds on its strengths to secure a strong future for the group, our customers, shareholders and employees.”
Gallego became Iberia chief executive in 2013. During his tenure at the airline, he turned it around, restoring profitability (before Covid-19) as well as improving its efficiency, customer service and brand. Before that, Gallego launched Iberia Express, as chief executive from 2012.
He joined Iberia Express from Vueling where he was chief operating officer from 2009, when the airline merged with Clickair. Gallego was born and raised in Madrid, Spain.