Lufthansa Group replaced the top management of its subsidiary Brussels Airlines (SN, Brussels National) after they have reportedly opposed the full integration of the Belgian brand into Eurowings (EW, Düsseldorf Int'l), Lufthansa Group's low-cost unit.

Chief Executive Officer Bernard Gustin will be replaced by Christina Förster, who is currently the company's Chief Commercial Officer, effective April 1. She will become the only female top executive of a major Western airline after Carolyn McCall had left easyJet last year. Before joining Brussels Airlines in October 2016, she worked for Lufthansa.

Brussels Airlines also said that Chief Financial Officer Jan De Raeymaeker as would leave the business as of March 31. Thibault Demoulin will be appointed the Chief Operating Officer, a post previously also held by Gustin, and two further management board members will be named soon, the carrier added.

According to De Tijd, Gustin clashed with Lufthansa Group's management over the future strategy for Brussels Airlines. While the outgoing CEO preferred to stick with the current hybrid-model and was intent on preserving the Belgian brand, the German holding is reportedly considering a full integration of the carrier into Eurowings in 2019.

After taking full control of Brussels Airlines at the end of 2016, Lufthansa announced its plans to integrate the company with Eurowings, but did not reveal how close the integration would be and whether it would involve the disappearance of the Belgian brand.

On January 5, nearly 100 Belgian companies, including giants Solvay and AB InBev, published an open letter to Lufthansa Group seeking to convince the holding to keep the Belgian subsidiary as an independent brand, Reuters reported. The carrier's staff also expressed its support for the outgoing management.

After the decision to change the management was announced, Brussels Airlines Chairman Viscount Etienne Davignon said that the Belgian brand and the current business model will be preserved, Aviation24.be reported.

Brussels Airlines will operate two A340-300s and one A330-300 for Eurowings out of Düsseldorf Int'l this summer. The aircraft will be initially deployed on short-haul services to each of Vienna and Palma Son Sant Joan from February 28 for the purposes of crew training.