The Australian born CEO of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, has been appointed to lead a new management entity to pull together a collection of aviation investments that include one quarter of Virgin Australia.
The move indicates that the sovereign owners of one of the major Middle East airline conglomerates aren’t blinking in their determination to take on their gulf rivals Dubai based Emirates and Doha based Qatar Airways.
Under Hogan’s direction Etihad Airways pursued a very different growth strategy to its immediate competitors in buying what were mostly minor interests in widely scattered carriers. All of which were struggling to make decent profits, but with each occupying strategic market locations and the associated potential for invaluable traffic rights on routes the Abu Dhabi carrier couldn’t fully access in its own right.
Its portfolio includes 25.1 percent of Virgin Australia Holdings, AirBerlin (29.2), India carrier Jet (24) Air Serbia, formerly JAT (49), Alitalia (49) and Swiss regional, Darwin Airline (33.3) which was renamed Etihad Regional. Last year it sold a five percent stake in Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus.
In recent financial postings all of these investments have experienced significant turnarounds and in some cases, moved into profitability for the first time in many years, although AirBerlin candidly reported screwing up its fuel hedging at massive cost to its bottom line.
Virgin Australia is positioning to undertake a much needed capital restructuring which has given rise to speculation of a possible takeover by Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, or both in combination.
If that isn’t enough ‘fun’ Etihad and its sovereign backers are joined with its ME rivals in fending off campaigning by the US majors Delta, American and United against the unfairness of their having owners with deep pockets flying to American cities and muscling in on their previous dominant position on North Atlantic routes and their connecting traffic.
This is the core of the Etihad announcement.
The Etihad Aviation Group Board of Directors, under the Chairmanship of HE Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, has announced the new management structure for the Etihad Aviation Group PJSC.
Mr Al Mazrouei said: “Etihad Airways has been steadily evolving into the Etihad Aviation Group for a number of years.
“This has been driven by the formation of new companies, including Etihad Airways Engineering, Etihad Global Cargo Management Company, the Global Loyalty Company, Hala Abu Dhabi, and Etihad Airport Services.
“The acquisition of minority equity stakes in Alitalia, airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Etihad Regional operated by Darwin Airline, Jet Airways, and Virgin Australia, has also necessitated the need for a dedicated team to manage our shareholding, and the delivery of wide-ranging synergies that are beneficial to all parties.”
James Hogan, who has served as Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer since September 2006, has been appointed Etihad Aviation Group President and Chief Executive Officer.
Under the leadership of Mr Hogan, the key Etihad Aviation Group functions will be led by James Rigney as Group Chief Financial Officer, Kevin Knight as Group Chief Strategy and Planning Officer, Ray Gammell as Group Chief People and Performance Officer, and Robert Webb as Group Chief Information and Technology Officer.
Peter Baumgartner, who was recruited to Etihad Airways from Swiss in 2005 has been appointed as its Chief Executive Officer.