Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

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

4 months 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. 

Airlines

Emirates Calls Travelers to ‘Fly Better’ With Its Gerry The Goose Campaign

5 months ago

After Hollywood celebrities Jennifer Anniston and Chris Hemsworth, Gerry the Goose is winging it as the newest brand ambassador for Dubai-based carrier Emirates. The brand campaign featuring Gerry, a Canadian goose, will run in 25 countries for one month, starting August 30.

As part of its ‘Fly Better’ campaign, Emirates said it “is inviting customers to take a gander at the benefits and services of the airline.”

Created through computer-generated imagery, Gerry the Goose is shown onboard an Emirates flight enjoying the finer things in life while watching “The Goose (enough of the puns, already!), The Bad and The Ugly.” Right outside the plane window, his tired friends are shown make their “monumental journey” through wind and rain from one continent to the other.

As Gerry remarks, “If you’re going to fly, you may as well fly better.”

“In terms of the qualities and profile we look for in our brand ambassadors — we are spreading our wings,” said Richard Billington, senior vice president of marketing and brand at Emirates. 

Earlier this month, Emirates announced that it would be investing over $2 billion to enhance its inflight customer experience, including a massive programme to retrofit over 120 aircraft with the latest interiors, plus an array of other service improvements across all cabins.

Through the pandemic we’ve continued to launch new services and initiatives to ensure our customers travel with the assurance and ease, including digital initiatives to improve customer experiences on the ground, said Tim Clark, president of Emirates. “Now we’re rolling out a series of intensive programmes to take Emirates’ signature inflight experiences to the next level.”

For the eleventh consecutive year, Emirates also returns as the official airline of the ongoing US Open Tennis Championships.

Emirates has been building up connectivity in response to growing customer demand on the back of rising travel confidence and the easing of international travel protocols. In an earlier forecast Clark had said that the airline would return to profitability by next year.

Airlines

Majority Owner of India’s SpiceJet Looks to Sell Part of His Stake

6 months ago

Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of Indian carrier SpiceJet, is said to be in talks with a Middle Eastern carrier and an Indian conglomerate to partially sell a portion of his stake in the budget airline.

Singh holds around 60 percent stake in the airline.

“The company continues to be in discussions with various investors to secure sustainable financing and will make appropriate disclosures in accordance with applicable regulations,” a SpiceJet spokesperson said.

A major Middle Eastern airline has expressed interest to pick a 24 percent stake and a board seat in SpiceJet. An Indian business conglomerate has also approached Singh for a stake in the airline, IANS reported while quoting a source.

With two carriers — Akasa and Jet 2.0 — set to debut in India this year, the stake sale would help bring much-needed equity infusion into SpiceJet, India’s third largest airline by market share.

The airline posted a net loss of $158 million in the April-December period of 2021, and is yet to declare financial results for the January-March period of 2022.

Last year, Indian aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) noted that SpiceJet had been operating on “cash and carry” method and approved vendors were not being paid on regular basis.

On August 2, SpiceJet stated that it had entered into a full and final settlement with the Airports Authority of India and has cleared all outstanding principal dues of the airport operator. “With this, SpiceJet will no longer remain on “cash and carry” at AAI run airports across the country and will revert to advance payment mechanism for daily flight operations,” a statement from the airline read.

Last year, SpiceJet had also announced its plan to transfer its cargo and logistics services on a slump sale basis to its subsidiary SpiceXpress to help the company raise funds independently. “The proposed hiving off of SpiceXpress is proceeding as per plan,” the airline spokesperson said.

Last month, DGCA issued a show-cause notice to Spicejet after its aircraft were hit by at least eight incidents of technical malfunction since June 19. The incidents included crack in the aircraft’s windshield, engine catching fire, weather radar malfunction and fuselage door warning.

On July 27, the airline was asked to operate only 50 percent of its approved flights for summer schedule for eight weeks.

Airlines

Saudi Arabia to Slash Airport Fees to Compete With Rival Hubs

6 months ago

After offering financial incentives to carriers to fly “unprofitable” routes, Saudi Arabia is now luring airlines by cutting airport charges by as much as 35 percent in its bid to compete with the world’s biggest airline hubs, most of which happen to be in the Middle East region.

Airport charges at three major airports — Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam — would be reduced by anywhere between 10 percent and 35 percent, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said. The decreased airport charges would be coming into force later this year.

To maximize growth, airports in the kingdom would be further allowed to reduce charges below the announced caps, the civil aviation authority announced at the Farnborough Air Show. 

In its pivot from oil to diversify into other sectors, Saudi Arabia is looking at tourism in a big way to bolster the country’s economy and then there’s the ambitious goal to attract 100 million tourists by 2030.

This development comes days after Saudi’s civil aviation authority also announced the decision to open the nation’s airspace to all commercial carriers that meet the country’s civil aviation authority’s overflying requirements.

Under the decision, Saudi airspace is now open to flights operated through Israel and by Israeli carriers, a decision which complements Saudi’s efforts to consolidate its position as a global hub. 

US President Joe Biden called the decision “the first tangible step in the path of what I hope will eventually be a broader normalization of relations.” 

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