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AIRLINES: Tony Douglas, CEO of new Saudi Arabian Airline RIA leaves after only two months

AIRLINES: Tony Douglas, CEO of new Saudi Arabian Airline RIA leaves after only two months

Tony Douglas, formerly CEO of Etihad Airways, and largely responsible for heading it towards a lean and profitable future was poached two months ago to head up a new Riyhad-based Saudi Arabian Airline RIA. The original report comes from the website Arabian Business.

RIA, backed by the Saudi PIF with around US $30 billion, the airline was scheduled to start flying soon. The totally new airline was planned to become an international player. The airline was planned to be the centrepiece of Saudi Arabia’s $100 billion investment in aviation outlined in its Vision 2030 plans.


Douglas previously headed Etihad from January 2018, and turned the airline around from a lossmaking prestige airline, to a profitable premium brand. He did that by abandoning the previous policy of having investments in various airlines, including in the old incarnation of Virgin Australia. He also overhauled the airline’s efficiency, routes and fleet. He has a history of working in airlines, transport, and gulf-based companies, being previously the CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports for a couple of years until 2015. His replacement at Etihad was former TAP Airlines boss Antonoaldo Neves.

RIA was to be the second Saudi-based airline SAUDIA being the first headquartered in Jeddah. There was also rumoured plans for a third national carrier based in the newly conceived NEOM project

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What we really want to know is why he has left, or indeed, was he pushed. Reportedly, he took some other Etihad staff with him to RIA, so they too are presumably in a precarious state. .

As I see it, and this is all speculation based on very little, here are the potential reason for his departure:

  • His vision for the airline did not mesh with that of the Saudi leadership
  • He didn’t get on, for whatever reason, with previous staff appointments to the airline
  • He didn’t get on with the Saudi leadership
  • Promises about funding, freedom, vision or timescale were not met
  • Other reasons inclucing health, family and other personal considerations

We may never know the real reasons. Lets see what happenes to these ambition plans for a new global airline, and who takes over as CEO.

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