Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway has confirmed he will retire from the airline in spring 2013.
A search is now on for a successor, with chief commercial officer Julie Southern among the early favourites.
Ridgway has been with the airline for 23 years, having initially been appointed managing director of frequent flyer programme Virgin Freeway,
He was 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 of the long-haul carrier since 2001.
In a statement Ridgeway said: “My time with Virgin Atlantic has been nothing short of an adventure.
“I have seen many great times and a few bad, and have always remained firm that we just offer something different to that of our competitors.”
Ridgway had discussed his plans to step-down with Virgin president Sir Richard Branson at the start of this year.
Branson added: “Steve 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.”