London — British airline EasyJet says CE Carolyn McCall will step down at the end of 2017 to become head of television channel ITV.

"After seven years, the opportunity from ITV felt like the right one to take," McCall said of her switch to the British independent channel.

The announcement comes just a few days after the no-frills airline said it would create EasyJet Europe, based in Vienna, in order to keep flying unhindered across the EU after Brexit.

EasyJet said a search for McCall’s successor had begun.

"Carolyn built and led the management team that has transformed EasyJet’s performance in every respect since 2010," company chairman John Barton said.

On her appointment at ITV, the broadcaster’s chairman Peter Bazalgette said: "In a very impressive field of high-calibre candidates, Carolyn stood out for her track record in media, experience of an international operation, clear strategic acumen and strong record of delivering value to shareholders."

Prior to becoming CEO of EasyJet, McCall had been CE of Guardian Media Group. She will replace Adam Crozier at ITV, who stepped down from his role in June.

McCall’s annual salary will be £900,000 alongside a sizeable pension, other long-term incentives and bonuses.

She "will also receive awards to compensate for remuneration arrangements forfeited on leaving her previous employer", ITV said.

In morning trades, EasyJet shares were down 0.3% at £14.07, while ITV jumped 3.0% to 180.2p.

London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index, on which both companies are listed, was up 0.3% at 7,398.50 points compared with the close on Friday.

McCall is one of only seven women heading a FTSE company following her switch.

"McCall has understanding of the commercial side of the (ITV) business, which complements a creative chairman... and (she) has weathered some tougher times at EasyJet while trebling the share price," said Jefferies equity analyst Tamsin Garrity.

Despite increasing profits massively during her time at EasyJet, McCall has faced much tougher times recently. EasyJet’s losses grew significantly during the first half of its financial year owing to the Brexit-fuelled slump in the pound and a later timing of Easter.

The collapsing value of the pound weighs on EasyJet’s performance because it makes dollar-priced jet fuel more expensive, ramping up the cost of running aircraft.

EasyJet last week said it had applied for a new air operator’s certificate in Austria to continue flying across Europe regardless of the final Brexit deal between Brussels and London.

Britain’s airline industry has soared over the last two decades under the Single European Sky system, which lifted trade restrictions on EU airlines.

Unless British negotiators manage to secure preferential conditions, British airlines could lose this status once the country leaves the European Union.


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