Etihad Hires Former TAP Portugal CEO To Replace Douglas

A spokesman for PIF declined to comment on Douglas or its latest plans for the new national airline.

Antonoaldo Neves Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg
Antonoaldo Neves Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

Etihad Aviation Group named Antonoaldo Neves, the former head of Portugal’s flag carrier, as chief executive officer to succeed Tony Douglas, who is leaving after running the Abu Dhabi carrier for four years.

Neves, 47, was CEO of state-owned airline TAP until 2020. Douglas is stepping down to pursue “a new opportunity elsewhere,” the Gulf carrier said in a statement Wednesday. 

Bloomberg News reported in September that Etihad had hired recruitment firms to seek a potential successor to Douglas, amid concern that the Briton was planning to leave to head up an airline being launched by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund.

“As we’re entering our next phase of sustainable growth, we are confident that Antonoaldo will build on Tony’s legacy,” Etihad Chairman Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa said in the statement.

A spokesman for PIF declined to comment on Douglas or its latest plans for the new national airline.

The Saudi startup, part of the Vision 2030 push to make the economy less dependent on oil, is set to be based in the capital Riyadh and function alongside existing flag carrier Saudia, which predominantly serves Jeddah and the Hajj pilgrimage market.

Ownership Move

Neves’s appointment comes after Abu Dhabi said Tuesday it would transfer ownership of Etihad to sovereign wealth fund ADQ, in an effort to better integrate a broad range of aviation activities and boost the sheikdom’s status as a transport hub.

Prior to Neves’s role at TAP, he was president of Brazil’s Azul Airlines which he helped take public in a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Douglas previously worked for two years in procurement at the UK Ministry of Defence, after serving as CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports and occupying an executive role at London’s Heathrow airport.

He took over at Etihad after the carrier dropped plans to compete with the likes of Dubai-based Emirates as an intercontinental super-hub, a strategy that had led to billions of dollars of losses.

While a decision to focus more on the needs of Abu Dhabi required Etihad to downsize, it emerged leaner and more competitive, riding out the coronavirus crisis more easily than many carriers and posting a record first-half profit.

(Updates with comment from Saudi fund in fifth paragraph.)

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