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Airlines

Etihad CEO Poached by Saudi Arabia’s New Airline: Reports

1 year ago

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas has agreed to join RIA — Saudi Arabia’s newest airline, according to reports.

It had been earlier reported that RIA, the multi-billion-dollar international carrier, had approached Douglas for the top job. Douglas has apparently agreed and other senior Etihad executives may follow him, according to Arabian Business.

Global consulting firm Korn Ferry has been tasked with the job to find a replacement for Douglas, the publication added quoting sources.

The head hunting firm is said to be in preliminary talks with three senior aviation names for the top job at Etihad, even though employment offers haven’t yet been made, according to Bloomberg.   

Douglas has been leading Etihad since 2018. He had also served as the CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports Company and Abu Dhabi Ports Company, prior to which he was the chief operating officer and group chief executive designate of UK’s largest privately-owned construction company Laing O’Rourke.

Under Douglas’ leadership, Etihad had reported a record-breaking core operating profit of $296 million for the first half of 2022, despite fuel costs increasing by almost 60 percent compared to the same period in 2021.

“Etihad is emerging from the pandemic stronger than ever, with a world-class fleet, an unmatched customer proposition and sustainability woven into every fibre of our business,” Douglas had said while announcing the financial results.

As Saudi Arabia pivots from its oil-based economy, the tourism sector has been a strong focus for the country that was closed to tourists till 2019.

The introduction of tourist visas in September 2019, was followed by the introduction of electronic tourist visas this month for residents of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

With an ambitious goal to reach 100 million tourists per year by 2030, the kingdom has been hard working to expanding its international air connectivity. 

Riyadh-based RIA will be the second airline for the kingdom, national carrier Saudia operates from Jeddah. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has reportedly invested $30 billion to get the airline off the ground.