Irish airline, Aer Lingus, in the midst of a takeover bid by International Airlines Group (IAG), has announced that Stephen Kavanagh will take over as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Executive Director.

The incumbent chief executive Christoph Mueller will step down on Feb 28 to take on a new role as Chief Executive of Malaysia Airlines. Kavanagh will take up his new role on March 1, 2015.

Aer Lingus Executive Chairman Colm Barrington said that he was “particularly pleased that it has been possible and appropriate for an internal Aer Lingus executive to succeed to the position of CEO.

“Stephen has been a key member of the executive team that, over the last five years, has transformed Aer Lingus into a strong, profitable airline with a resilient business model and an improved cost base.”

Kavanagh (47) joined the Aer Lingus in 1988. His most recent role was as chief strategy and planning officer.

A graduate of University College Dublin, Kavanagh undertook a variety of roles in operational and commercial departments when he first joined Aer Lingus, culminating in his appointment as an executive in 2006. He was part of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) team that brought Aer Lingus to market that year. Kavanagh served as Chief Commercial Officer from 2009 where he led improvements in retail and revenue management, partner and network development.

The move is receiving a positive reaction from analysts. David Holohan at Merrion Stockbrokers wrote in a note to the Financial Times, “This is a positive development for Aer Lingus and ends what has been a drawn-out process for the selection of a successor to Mr Mueller.

“Given that Mr Kavanagh was instrumental in the development of the current Aer Lingus long-haul route network, he was a natural selection given his extensive knowledge of the airline’s operations both in short and long haul.

“He will be a key driver of the airline’s growth either as a standalone entity or as part of the management team under IAG, should they successfully acquire Aer Lingus.”

On Friday, Feb 13 Aer Lingus said IAG’s bid had “compelling logic” and “significant positive benefits for Ireland and is strongly supportive of the government’s two-airline policy.”