Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Etihad is looking for a new CEO like Tony Douglas to lead the Saudi Arabian startup RIA

Douglas has been with Etihad since 2018 and has been instrumental in the turnaround of the airline’s fortunes. Etihad appears to be on the hunt for a new chief executive of the airline as reports suggest that current boss Tony Douglas is leaving the airline. It was reported a few weeks ago that a new Saudi Arabian RIA startup was looking to find Douglas for the top job, so it seems the hunt has been fruitful. As reported by Arabian Business today, Douglas accepted the job offer. Citing “industry sources”, the publication said that Douglas had already informed Etihad shareholders of his decision to leave and that the airline had appointed consultancy Korn Ferry to find a replacement. It should also be noted that other Etihad executives could be tempted to leave alongside Douglas. However, the CEO says he will remain with the Abu Dhabi carrier until a suitable replacement is found. As Bloomberg reported yesterday, Etihad has already started the process of finding the head of the top position. The portal reported that at least three senior aviation officials had been approached by the headhunting firm, although no specific names were mentioned and no employment contracts were offered. RIA is a new startup from Saudi Arabia that aims to become the Emirate of Saudi Arabia, connecting the globe just like its Dubai neighbor that started in the mid-1980s. It is being created as part of Saudi Arabia’s tourism plan Vision 2030, which aims to increase the number of air routes connecting the country from the current 100 to about 250. It also wants to bring about 300 million tourists to the country annually. The RIA is just one element of Saudi Arabia’s massive push into aviation and tourism, which is financed by the large Public Investment Fund (PIF), one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. The nation recently announced the establishment of a leasing company called AviLease, as well as a third airline to serve the planned megacity of Neom. In total, Saudi Arabia plans to invest about $100 billion in aviation, some of which will be absorbed by these new airlines, while the money will also be spent on improving equipment such as air traffic control and investing in new technologies such as eVTOLs. If Douglas does indeed plan to leave Etihad for RIA, his influence on the airline will remain for many years to come. He led Etihad’s ambitious turnaround plan and guided it through its most difficult years optimizing its fleet, operations, staffing and systems to position itself well for the future. After the airline weathered the pandemic – the worst aviation crisis in history – Douglas has now seen the carrier post its first half-year profit in a very long time. It is forecast to have a fully profitable year – which is no mean feat given the high cost of jet fuel across the industry at the moment. He will be missed, but his legacy of turning around a struggling airline will live on for a long time.

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