Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is reportedly on the hunt for a new chief executive and has already approached a number of current or former airline CEO’s to gauge their interest in taking the helm at the Gulf carrier.
According to internal sources cited by Bloomberg, at least three potential candidates have been contacted by a top headhunting firm, although the sources say the talks are in a preliminary stage.
That could well be because the incumbent chief executive Tony Douglas hasn’t publicly made any announcement that he intends to leave Etihad anytime soon. There are rumblings, however, that a new multi-billion-dollar Saudi airline has managed to poach Douglas.
Sources quoted by Arabian Business let it be known earlier this month that Douglas was the “top choice” of officials at Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund which is looking to create a new Riyadh-based carrier which will be called ‘RIA’. The same publication now reports that Douglas has accepted RIA’s offer.
The Saudi government has reportedly built up a vast war chest of more than $30 billion to create the new airline at breakneck speed. The Saudis want to take on regional rivals like Emirates and Qatar Airways by targeting international transit passengers and Douglas’ experience at Etihad could prove invaluable.
Douglas was headhunted by Etihad in late 2017 after the disastrous tenure of James Hogan brought the airline close to the brink of collapse with losses of $1.87 billion.
Before taking on the top job at Etihad, Douglas had been working at the Ministry of Defence in London and had previously worked for the British Airport Authority where he led the construction of the huge Heathrow Terminal 5 project.
He has also had plenty of experience working in the Middle East with a senior position at the Abu Dhabi Ports Company.
Douglas was tasked with slashing costs at Etihad and reversing its ailing fortunes after years of racking up huge losses. Between January and June 2022, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier said it made a core operating profit of US $296 million.
Douglas believes he will have achieved a “complete turnaround” for Etihad by 2023.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.