Eddington plans a summer departure from British Airways

Rod Eddington, the chief executive of British Airways, will leave the airline towards the end of the summer to return to Australia and focus on his non-executive jobs.

Sources said Mr Eddington, 55, was likely to leave BA in late summer or early autumn, depending on when Martin Broughton, the chairman, finds a replacement. Mr Eddington wants to be back in his native Australia early next year and may travel in Europe in the months before his departure, the sources said.

Mr Eddington, who joined BA as chief executive five years ago, has said he wants to retire this year and concentrate on non-executive posts. He is a non-executive director of News Corp and John Swire & Sons. Last month he ruled himself out of the chief executive role at Telstra, Australia's biggest phone company.

The two likely internal candidates to replace him are John Rishton, BA's finance director, and Martin George, the commercial director. BA said it had not yet drawn up a shortlist of external candidates. Possible names include Willie Walsh, the former chief executive of Aer Lingus; Tony Tyler, the chief operating officer at Cathay Pacific Airways, where Mr Eddington was once managing director; and James Hogan, a former bmi executive who runs Gulf Air.

Mr Eddington has presided over several crises at BA - from the slump in air travel after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US and growing competition from low-cost rivals to last summer's fiasco at Heathrowin which thousands of passengers were stranded after staff shortages and other problems. He has implemented drastic cost-cutting, although £300m of staff cost-savings pencilled in for this year have been delayed,

Mr Eddington will unveil his latest two-year business plan to shareholders at BA's annual investor day on Thursday.

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