Etihad Airways Finally Appoints A New CEO

Earlier this year Etihad’s CEO, James Hogan, stepped down from his position. Rather than focusing on building Etihad as an airline, under his leadership Etihad invested in all kinds of other airlines, including airberlin and Alitalia. It would be quite an understatement to say that this strategy has been a disaster. I love Etihad as such and love the people who work there, but I can’t help but think that his departure was long overdue.

While Etihad appointed an interim CEO, they had been searching for a permanent replacement for months, though understandably you’re not always going to find the right candidate for such a position quickly. I was expecting Etihad to find an airline CEO with a track record of running a profitable airline, or one who has a track record of turning around airlines. For example, there were rumors that Christoph Mueller, Malaysia’s former CEO who is now at Emirates, might move over to Etihad.

Well, Etihad has now appointed a new CEO, and his background is a bit different than I was expecting. Tony Douglas has been appointed the new CEO of Etihad Aviation Group (which is different than the CEO of the airline as such, who will continue to be Peter Baumgartner). I had never heard the name before this, so here’s how the press release describes him:

Mr. Douglas joins Etihad from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, where he has served as CEO of the Defence Equipment and Support department, responsible for procuring and supporting all the equipment and services for the British Armed Forces.

In the UK, he held senior positions with airport operator BAA, and as Chief Operating Officer and Group Chief Executive designate of Laing O’Rourke. His roles under airport operator BAA included Managing Director of the Heathrow Terminal 5 project, Group Supply Chain Director, Group Technical Director, and CEO of Heathrow Airport.

Previously, Mr. Douglas held senior positions in the UAE, most notably as CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports Company and as CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports Company where he was responsible for the successful delivery of Khalifa Port.

That’s an interesting choice. While not what I was expecting for the role, he has experience with airports and has work experience in the UAE, so I can see how they chose him. At the same time, I would think running airports and other governments projects is a little bit different than running an airline (well, maybe in the UAE running an airline is sort of like a government project). 😉

Good luck to Douglas — there’s a lot to be fixed at Etihad, though on the plus side, the overall Etihad Aviation Group would be hard pressed to perform worse than it did under Hogan.

What do you make of Etihad’s choice of CEO?

Comments

  1. He’s not going to be the CEO of the airline. Peter Baumgartner is staying on as the CEO of Etihad Airways. This guy will be the CEO of the Etihad group – so the umbrella group over the Airline, the MRO, the Loyalty program, etc. He wont get his hands as dirty as Baumgartner for the day-to-day running/ strategy of the actual airline

  2. I think Douglas’s experience at DE&S could serve him well in his new role. He’s shepherded procurement for a range of highly complex projects during a period in which successive governments have put the screws on Whitehall with varying degrees of severity. If you can scrape together the resources to build an aircraft carrier under those sorts of conditions, you can probably help right a struggling airline.

  3. Hmm…I think that saying that it would be “hard-pressed to perform worse than it did under James Hogan,” is a bit harsh here. He may have led the company down some paths that were unwise in hindsight, but he also helped it turn around from its unprofitable state in the late 2000’s when it was hardly anyone, to what it is now.

  4. The investment strategy isnt all that bad. Jet airways, virgin Australia, and air serbia all seem to have worked out well.

  5. After flying EY quite a lot in J & F over the past month, their cost cutting is disgusting noticeable.
    Their F class product & especially in their F lounge in AUH is a joke. Some what now mediocre of a standard J class lounge. This airline has cut too much & I feel they are loosing ‘guests’ more then gaining because of this. I surely will not be paying for a below average service if choosing an airline anymore & sadly they’ve lost me after being so damn loyal over the past years.

  6. Main issues with Etihad is not the way you lead the company, simply because theres mush things un untouchable, specially with the nationals resources, adding that Etihad salaries to bring europian ladies with no previous experience completly in aviation is mush more high than the range of other competotors which they start increasing the ticket prices to demonestrate these expencesses, simply etihad problem they are looking for prestiege more than profit, i will not choose a prestigious company with 4000$ tickets from IAD to AUH just because the cabin crews looks beautiful while i can find 1000$ ticket on other airlines with more space, better food and mush more entertaining selections.

  7. Wherever Hogan going to do, he will always make a mess!

    RIP BMI, Gulf Air and Etihad. Hope Hogan won’t come into airline business anymore.

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