Etihad Aviation Group has confirmed its Australian-born chief executive James Hogan will leave on July 1 2017 as the search for his permanent replacement nears its conclusion.
The company said in a statement on Monday it had promoted chief people and performance officer Ray Gammell to the position of interim chief executive, effective immediately.
Gammell, an Irishman who joined Etihad in 2009 after careers in technology, finance and government, has assumed full management responsibilities at Etihad Aviation Group, “consistent with the company’s leadership transition plan”.
Etihad Aviation Group chairman His Excellency Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei said the company was now in the “advanced stages” of its search for a new chief executive, with an announcement expected “in the next few weeks”.
“Ray will now take full management responsibility for the Etihad Aviation Group, ensure a coordinated group approach, and continue to advance the strategic review that was initiated by the board in 2016 to reposition the business for continued development in what we anticipate being a prolonged period of challenges for global aviation,” Al Mazrouei said.
Hogan was chief executive of Etihad Airways between 2006-2016, before stepping away from the day-to-day stewardship of the airline in May 2016 to spearhead the wider Etihad Aviation Group following a corporate restructure.
The leadership change comes at a tricky time for not just Etihad but all the Gulf-based carriers, given the slowdown in the region amid difficult trading conditions and overcapacity.
In recent times, Etihad has indicated it was looking at new ways to improve it financial position. The airline has signed a codeshare agreement with German flag carrier Lufthansa, which although small in scope to begin with, had the potential to grow into something bigger.
Etihad has also partnered with Lufthansa on a global catering agreement and signed a memorandum of understanding with Lufthansa Technik for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul.
Separately, it also announced plans to establish a new European leisure airline as part of a joint venture with TUI AG.
Much interest in Etihad Aviation Group’s strategic review centres on the future of its equity investments in a host of foreign carriers, including Virgin Australia in this part of the world, Alitalia, airberlin, India’s Jet Airways, Air Seychelles, Air Serbia and Swiss-based Etihad Regional.
Two European carriers stand out as particularly troublesome. Alitalia has entered administration and is on life support via a short-term loan from the Italian government after staff rejected a rescue plan. Meanwhile, airberlin remains mired in losses and is cutting routes and shedding aircraft as part of efforts to turn things around.
Separately, Etihad Aviation Group said senior vice president and group treasurer Ricky Thirion has assumed all the responsibilities of group chief financial officer James Rigney, who is also leaving the company on July 1.
Etihad serves Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney from its Abu Dhabi hub.