Etihad Airways is "slightly ahead" of schedule in its masterplan to put the company back on a sound financial footing, just over two years after Tony Douglas, to whom the government of Abu Dhabi has instinctively turned in times of need, took over the helm of the company.
“[We have a] long way to go. We are slightly ahead of where we plan to be, and if we stay [positive], if we do the right things like this for the right reasons, we'll all see a very strong Etihad in the future,” Douglas, CEO of Etihad Aviation Group, told AIN at the Dubai Airshow Monday, at an event to launch the "Etihad Greenliner."
The new aircraft, an updated version of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that offers a 20 percent improvement in fuel burn, would be a significant aid to airline profitability, Douglas said. The airline today has 36 Dreamliners—more than one-third of the fleet—and expects the figure to rise to over 50 percent of fleet size by 2023. Etihad received its first Boeing 787 in December 2014.
The newly efficient aircraft is to be introduced early next year and will operate as an "eco flight" from Abu Dhabi to Brussels during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January 2020, with a wide range of environment-focused initiatives on display.
Douglas was brought in to the airline in late 2017, after Etihad’s experiment in buying stakes in airlines around Europe and elsewhere failed, leading to losses in the past three financial years amounting to $4.8 billion. He successfully delivered the construction of Khalifa Port Container Terminal on time as CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports in December 2012 and was on schedule to complete the Midfield Terminal Building for Abu Dhabi Airports Company, where he was also CEO, in July 2017, before being poached by a unit of the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
“The 787 Dreamliner and its revolutionary design have enabled carriers such as Etihad Airways to significantly reduce fuel use and emissions,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Stanley Deal at the event. “It is the perfect platform for advancing our industry’s commitment to sustainable growth. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Etihad Airways and identifying more ways to improve efficiency across commercial aviation.”
With the launch of initiatives like these and a track record of success in the emirate, Etihad's owner, the government of Abu Dhabi, clearly believes Douglas is the right man to lead the company back into the black.