Etihad Aviation Group has named Tony Douglas, who has run both Abu Dhabi and Heathrow airports, as CEO at a time the group’s airline is undergoing a strategic review after investments in troubled carriers contributed to a big loss last year.
Douglas may face tough decisions when he joins in January as he decides what to do with what remains of Etihad’s sprawling investments in foreign airlines Virgin Australia, Air Seychelles, Air Serbia, and India’s Jet Airways.
Two other airlines in which Etihad has invested, Germany’s Air Berlin and Italy’s Alitalia, have filed for administration this year after the Gulf carrier said it was no longer willing to support them financially.
Problems with its investments in troubled European airlines and provisions on aircraft plunged Etihad Airways into a $1.9 billion loss last year, its first since 2010.
Douglas replaces veteran Australian CEO James Hogan, who developed Etihad Airways into an aggressive rival to Dubai’s Emirates and Qatar Airways over a 10-year period. Hogan’s departure was announced in January.
Douglas has previously worked in the UAE as CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports and Abu Dhabi Ports. In the United Kingdom, he oversaw the construction of Terminal 5 at Heathrow and went on to become CEO of Europe’s busiest airport.
“He has guided the transformation of large organizations in the UAE and the UK, and he understands the UAE and the region,” Etihad Chairman Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel al-Mazrouei said.
“He is also deeply knowledgeable about commercial aviation and keenly familiar with Etihad’s challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing industry.”
Douglas will join Etihad from Britain’s Ministry of Defense, where he was responsible for procuring and supporting equipment and services for the armed forces.
Ray Gammell, who has served as interim group CEO since May will return to his position as Group Chief People & Performance Officer. The airline group is also looking for a new chief financial officer.