Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway is retiring from the airline in spring 2013.
He has been with the airline for 23 years.
The airline said Ridgway had discussed his plans to step-down with Virgin president Sir Richard Branson at the start of this year and is now leading the search to find his own successor.
Julie Southern, who was appointed chief commercial officer in 2010, is seen as the 'likely leading internal candidate' to replace Ridgway, an industry source told Dow Jones Newswires.
The Sunday Times reported that outgoing Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe could be an external candidate to replace Ridgway.
Ridgway joined the airline formally in 1989 when he was appointed managing director of Virgin Freeway, the UK's first automated frequent flyer programme.
He was then appointed to the Airline Board as executive director of customer services in 1994 and a promotion to managing director in 1998.
He has been chief executive since 2001.
Ridgway said: "My time with Virgin Atlantic has been nothing short of an adventure. I've seen many great times and a few bad, and have always remained firm that we must offer something different to that of our competitors."
Sir Richard added: "Steve has been a close friend and confidant since the early days when we bounced across the Atlantic ocean in Virgin Atlantic Challenger; bringing the Blue Riband back to the UK.
"He has been a hands-on, inspirational leader and has shaped the airline into the company it is today with his carefully developed management team.
"He will be very much involved with the airline into next year and will doubtlessly be involved in other Virgin projects as we value his skills so highly. I personally thank him for his dedication to Virgin Atlantic over the past 23 years."
Monday, September 10, 2012