The new multi-billion-dollar Saudi mega airline Riyadh Air has appointed Peter Bellew, the ex-chief operating officer at Ryanair and easyJet, into the same role at the upstart airline.
Riyadh Air has big ambitions to become a ‘world class’ airline and plans to serve 100 destinations before the end of the decade. The airline will be bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which has been on a global hunt for experienced aviation leaders.
With the formal announcement on Sunday that Riyadh Air was to be established, the airline unveiled that former Etihad Airways chief executive Tony Douglas had been headhunted for the same role, while Bellew announced his position at the airline on Monday via a short LinkedIn post.
The veteran aviation executive has been involved in the industry for the past 37 years and was most recently the chief operating officer at easyJet for around two and half years before he suddenly announced he was quitting last July.
Bellew joined the Luton-based airline in January 2020 after defecting from rival discounter Ryanair, where he held the same role.
Ryanair attempted to stop Bellew from joining the Stelios Haji-Ioannou founded airline, claiming in an infamous court case that Bellew had signed a ‘non-compete clause’ that prevented him from doing the same role at a rival carrier.
The Irish High Court rejected Ryanair’s case, and Bellew joined easyJet just before the pandemic struck.
Controversy followed Bellew to easyJet, where a cabin crew and pilot union accused him of “misleading” investors and staff to reduce employee costs at the height of the pandemic. Bellew stepped down during a torrid time for the discounter, which was struggling to recruit back staff that had been laid off during the pandemic.
Bellew also held the role of chief operations officer at Malaysia Airlines from September 2015 before briefly taking on the role of chief executive until November 2017.
During his tenure as CEO at the Kuala Lumpur-based airline, a cabin crew union accused Malaysia Airlines of introducing discriminatory practices after flight attendants who were deemed overweight were fired.
According to Bellew’s LinkedIn profile, he has been working behind the scenes at Riyadh Air since January. Announcing his role, Bellew wrote: “I am excited to join as Chief Operating Officer of the team at Riyadh Air – Saudia Arabia’s New National Carrier to Further Expand the Saudi Aviation Ecosystem Locally and Globally.”
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.