Etihad Aviation Group has appointed the former head of London Heathrow airport to lead the push to reverse heavy financial losses and replace former group chief executive James Hogan.
Tony Douglas will be charged with helping the Gulf carrier recover from its disastrous investments in European carriers airberlin and Alitalia, both of which are now in administration.
The troubled airline investments and a fleet write-down saw Etihad post a $U1.87 billion loss last financial year in an environment where Gulf carriers were buffeted by lower oil prices, increased competition and external events such terrorism in Europe and adverse US government policies.
Hogan left Etihad on July 1 this year after a 10-year stint with the airline and the company promoted chief people and performance officer Ray Gammell as interim chief executive while it searched for a permanent replacement.
Dubai-based Emirates announced a 70 per cent slump in 2016-17 annual profit as officials predicted another challenging year due to “hyper competition” and volatility in many markets.
Douglas joins the Gulf aviation group from the UK Ministry of Defence, where he led the department responsible for procuring and supporting all the equipment and services for the British military.
He is a veteran of the United Arab Emirates and headed Abu Dhabi Airports and Abu Dhabi Ports, where he was responsible for the successful delivery of Khalifa Port.
In addition to his position as BAA chief executive, his roles at the company included running the Heathrow Terminal 5 project, group supply chain director and group technical director.
The airline said Douglas would work with the board and leadership team “to expand and implement a range of strategic initiatives to position Etihad for sustained success in an increasingly competitive regional and global aviation market”.
“We are delighted to have Tony return to Abu Dhabi to lead Etihad,’’ Eithad Aviation Group chairman Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei said in the announcement.
“He has guided the transformation of large organisations in the UAE and the UK, and he understands the UAE and the region.
“He is also deeply knowledgeable about commercial aviation and keenly familiar with Etihad’s challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing industry.”
Douglas will start work at Etihad in January, 2018.