Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger will step down at the end of the year and be succeeded by Shai Weiss, the UK carrier’s current CCO and former CFO, on Jan. 1, 2019.

Kreeger, who has been CEO since early 2013, said it is an “ideal time” for a leadership transition, as the Virgin Atlantic-Delta Air Lines transatlantic joint venture (JV) is set to combine with the Delta-Air France-KLM-Alitalia JV next year. Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic.

Weiss became a member of Virgin Atlantic’s board in 2012, became CFO in July 2014 and was named CCO at the beginning of 2017.

“Now is a great time for Shai to succeed Craig and lead Virgin Atlantic as we enter a new and exciting chapter: combining the existing joint ventures between Air France-KLM, Alitalia and Delta with the joint venture between Virgin Atlantic and Delta, into a single expanded joint venture partnership clearly focused on providing customers simply the best and most seamless service,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said.

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson credited Kreeger with “refreshing our onboard experience, bringing in new planes and bringing us closer to our partner Delta, opening more destinations and opportunities for our flyers.” He added: “I’ve worked closely with Shai for more than a decade and know his drive, commitment and passion mean the airline and our amazing people are in great hands. The next few years are exciting as we build on the opportunities created by our expanded partnership with Delta and Air France-KLM to bring in more new planes and access to more routes.”

Air France-KLM is in the process of acquiring 31% of Virgin Atlantic. Given that 80% of Virgin Atlantic’s ownership shares will be comprised of SkyTeam members by early 2019, one item on Weiss’s agenda is likely to be whether the UK carrier will join SkyTeam.

Virgin Atlantic incurred a £48.5 million ($67.6 million) net loss in 2017, reversed from a £187.3 million net profit in 2016. The airline cut capacity 2.2% year-over-year in 2017 as transatlantic competition intensified.

Aaron Karp/Aviation Daily,