By Victor Shalton
Etihad Airways Appoints Antonoaldo Neves New CEO, Replacing Tony Douglas
After its ownership was transferred to Abu Dhabi Wealth fund ADQ, UAE flag carrier Etihad Airways appointed Antonoaldo Neves — the former chief of TAP Air Portugal — as the new group CEO, succeeding Tony Douglas, who took on a new role to head Saudi Arabia’s new $30 billion national carrier, RIA, Arabian Business reported.
Douglas, who led Etihad’s operations since January 2018, will leave the Abu Dhabi-based carrier and will serve during his transition period as an advisor to the Board of ADQ Aviation and Aerospace Services Company.
Etihad’s New Boss
Incoming chief Neves was CEO and a board member at TAP Air Portugal, the National Airline of Portugal, where he successfully led a major turnaround to create a more valuable company, which significantly contributed to tourism development in Portugal.
Before TAP, Antonoaldo was the President of Azul Airlines in Brazil, where he successfully led the company to an initial public offering in the U.S. Antonoaldo was also a partner at McKinsey and Company, where he developed the long-term plan for the aviation sector development in Brazil.
Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman of Etihad Aviation Group, said, “Tony has led Etihad through some of its most challenging times and has successfully turned the airline into a profitable and sustainable business over the past five years as part of its initial transformation program. As we’re entering our next phase of sustainable growth, we are confident that Antonoaldo will build on Tony’s legacy. We thank Tony for all the hard work he has delivered. Etihad will continue to serve Abu Dhabi as the national airline of the UAE, delivering world-class services and exceeding global benchmarks shortly.”
Neves on his part commented, “Etihad Airways is a globally well-known brand in the industry. I’m excited to embark on this new role and build on the solid foundation left by Tony and the management team. I am confident that Etihad will prosper into new heights and continue its journey of sustainable growth.”
The outgoing chief Tony Douglas also said, “I am proud to have served as Etihad’s chief executive officer over the past five years. The unprecedented challenges stemming from macroeconomic conditions faced by the industry were successfully navigated through prudent measures undertaken to position Etihad on a sustainable path for the future. I am appreciative of all the support provided by my Etihad colleagues and looking forward to further supporting the evolution of the wider Abu Dhabi aviation ecosystem.”
Saudi Arabia’s new airline, RIA, is scheduled to launch operations in the last quarter of 2022 and is forecasted to bring fierce competition to the Middle East’s commercial aviation landscape by rivaling the market’s leading carriers including Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.
According to Arabian Business, other senior Etihad executives are expected to follow in Douglas’ footsteps and join the airline in the upcoming months.
The airline, which is fully funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is a key pillar in the kingdom’s $100 billion investment in aviation planned over the coming eight years, as part of the Vision 2030 program objectives to diversify the country’s economic portfolio and reduce its reliance on oil exports.
According to industry sources, RIA’s initial operations will be primarily regional, with a fleet of Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320 aircraft.