Abu Dhabi’s Etihad to remain a global airline despite review

The airline is cutting back operations after an investment strategy failed to pay off



Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways wants to remain a global carrier despite undertaking a review following major losses, its group chief executive has said.

Tony Douglas said at an event in Abu Dhabi Monday the airline had no intention of becoming a “boutique” operator, according to Bloomberg.

However, it is taking a more “strategic” approach to expansion after investments in airlines including Italy’s Alitalia and Germany’s Air Berlin failed to pay off. Both filed for insolvency last year after Etihad pulled funding.

Read: Air Berlin creditors plan to sue Abu Dhabi’s Etihad for damages

“What we have embraced properly is a way to develop growth in a sustainable way. We will choose wisely; we will make sure that detail is well-attended to,” Douglas was quoted as saying.

The group CEO, who took on the role in January, is tasked with turning around Etihad’s fortunes after it posted a $1.87bn loss for its 2016 financial year.

Read: Etihad Airways posts $1.87bn loss in 2016 amid turbulent year

Under his leadership it has pulled five Boeing 777-200LR passenger jets from its fleet and stopped using five Airbus cargo planes.

Read: Abu Dhabi’s Etihad phases out 5 Boeing 777-200LRs

The airline has also suspended flights from Abu Dhabi to the Scottish capital Edinburgh and Australian city Perth from later this year and has admitted asking pilots to take voluntary unpaid leave but denied reports of widespread job cuts.

Read: Abu Dhabi’s Etihad to suspend flights to Edinburgh, Perth

Read: Abu Dhabi’s Etihad denies plans to cut 10% of pilots

Douglas said on Monday the airline remained an “adolescent” in aviation terms as the youngest of the big three Gulf carriers, which include Dubai rival Emirates and Qatar Airways, but he suggested it still aspired to be an “airline of choice”.

He also did not rule out further cooperation with Emirates after signing a security deal in January.

Read: UAE’s Emirates and Etihad sign security deal

Etihad’s declining fortunes had led to reports of a potential merger between the two being considered. Emirates president Tim Clark has previously denied any talks are underway at present but said any decision would be down to the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“I do admire what I observe from our great friends in Dubai,” Douglas admitted. “We will continue to consider where appropriate the things that we could do together.”