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Carolyn McCall takes over at easyJet


Carolyn McCall has just been named CEO of easyJet  © easyJet - Carolyn McCall takes over at easyJet
Carolyn McCall has just been named CEO of easyJet © easyJet
With Carolyn McCall as their new chief executive, easyJet will soon be led by a women for the first time. So just who is the woman who conquered this generally male-only domain?

From the beginning, when easyJet announced they were looking for a new CEO, it was quite clear that it would be someone from another company. Also clear was that an industry-stranger would likely be chosen. But that the airline giant’s new chief executive would be a woman surprised most.

When she takes up her office in June, McCall will be one of the few female heads of an airline. And easyJet is not just any airline: easyJet is one of the biggest in the business, and the second largest airline in Europe. As such, it handles more flights in Britain than all other companies together, including British Airways.

Even her fiercest critics acknowledge this: Carolyn McCall did not become the new boss of easyJet, because she is a woman. "The board has simply opted for the best of the candidates in the discussion. And believe me, they chose upon other criteria than gender,” said Thomas Loughbough, a financial analyst in London.

The easyJet board’s voted unanimously to give the position to the 48-year-old McCall. External headhunters had drawn attention to the media manager. When she first introduced herself to the board, she reportedly came across as "tough, determined and with momentum.” Chairman Sir Michael Rake praised McCall's “strategic and operational capabilities" the day he announced her appointment.

© Jupiter
© Jupiter
"She is tough, but not unapproachable,” said easyJet spokesman Stefan Aust. “Not one of these arrogant managers." That, he said, was his first impression. "I'm looking forward very much to working with her. She seems very determined to bring new life to the company."

Much of her vitality and endurance comes from her private life, people say. She is a mother of three children who always seems to be very present during the work day, but who generally avoids putting in long hours.

The family lives in a spacious house in the country outside North London, and McCall’s husband works from home, running his own cricket promotion company.

Currently, McCall is president of the Guardian Media Group (GMG); she knows the airline business only as a passenger. This is something that leaves some financial analysts with a lot of doubt.

But her background is viewed differently by many at at easyJet. "EasyJet has been looking for someone who is familiar in a fiercely competitive market, which has set itself apart with customer orientation and user behavior and has perhaps even experience with lobbying," they say at the firm. "All this was true for Carolyn McCall. That is why she was so suitable."

For her part, McCall wants to focus on both her strengths and easyJet’s: things like customer orientation, keeping costs low and expanding the business. Those who expected some sort of major sea change may be disappointed.


Shila Meyer Behjat
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