The role reinforces the airport division's management structure after the 20-strong team held on to the 10-year BAA advertising concession earlier this year.
Priorities for Thackray will include the roll-out of digital advertising across airports including Gatwick and Stansted, as well as advertising for Heathrow and the launch of its Terminal 5.
JCDeaux is still on the hunt for a sales director, as Lee Lawrence is to step down from the role in October.Thackray will report directly to JCDecaux Airport managing director Don Sperring until a replacement for Lawrence is appointed.
Sperring said: "James's appointment strengthens the team at a time when JCDecaux Airport is investing in new formats."
A spokesman added that further expansion of the team is expected once the new sales director is in position.
Thackray was with Viacom for six years before quitting in 2005.