Etihad Airways appoints interim Group CEO

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Etihad Airways said on Monday it has appointed Ray Gammell as interim Group Chief Executive Officer, replacing outgoing President and Group CEO James Hogan who will leave on July 1.

The announcement comes less than a week after Italy’s Alitalia, 49 percent owned by Etihad, filed for special administration for the second time in less than a decade after workers rejected its latest rescue plan.

Alitalia was Etihad’s most high-profile bet as it raced to catch up fast growing rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways by buying into as many as eight foreign carriers.

The Abu Dhabi owned airline said on Tuesday that it was no longer willing to invest in Alitalia.

Etihad announced Hogan’s departure in January, when also announced that it was carrying out a strategic review.

Gammell is to continue that review, though a permanent Group CEO will be announced in the “next few weeks”, Chairman Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel al-Mazrouei said in a statement.

Gulf airlines have seen growth slow over the past two years against a more challenging economic backdrop. Lower fuel prices dented demand for high-margin premium cabins as Middle East travel budgets tightened.

Whilst East to West traffic, an important route for Gulf carriers, diminished after a wave of militant attacks in Europe and Turkey.

Gammell, who joined the Abu Dhabi airline in 2009, currently serves as the group’s Chief People & Performance Officer and is a member of the Executive Leadership.

Etihad also said it has promoted Ricky Thirion as Group Financial Officer. Thirion, who joined the airline in 2007, currently serves as Senior Vice President Group Treasurer.

He replaces James Rigney who will leave on July 1. Rigney’s exit was first announced in January.