Power Letter 2021: Tony Douglas, CEO, Etihad Aviation Group

SourceGulf Business

Etihad started 2020 strong and we recorded encouraging results as part of our ongoing transformation programme. This left us in a robust position, allowing us to act with agility as we dealt with a series of events at the outset of the year, from riots in Hong Kong and volcanic ash clouds in the Philippines, to the biggest bushfires in Australian history and the terrible tragedy with Ukrainian Airlines that resulted in the closure of airspace. We were fitter than ever but could not have imagined what was to come next. As the effects of Covid-19 rapidly deepened, airspace around the world began to close, and from March 24, 2020, this included the UAE. I can remember that moment, and it will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was heart-breaking to see our aircraft returning to Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Having to ground your entire fleet – like we did – is almost unheard of, except of course during geopolitical events or natural disasters. The immediate thing that was going through my mind was how to turn a massive negative into an opportunity, so we established four work streams: ‘Project Restart’ focused on getting the airline back...read more...