Will the airline’s launch be further delayed by this setback?

Etihad Airbus A330
Photo: Peter Krocka/Shutterstock

Etihad Airways’ former CEO Tony Douglas has quit his role as CEO of Saudi Arabian airline RIA just two months into his new position. The publicly-backed startup is expected to launch operations within the next few months and will now be searching for a new CEO.

RIA CEO Tony Douglas departs

As first reported by Arabian Business, the experience airline chief has left his new position as CEO of RIA after around two months. As Simple Flying reported in September, Tony Douglas left Etihad to lead Saudi Arabian startup RIA, which holds ambitious plans to rival the big three in the Middle East – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

Sources close to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) told Arabian Business that Douglas was “no longer involved” with the airline, but neglected to explain the reason behind the departure. Douglas left his role as CEO at Etihad after over four years at the helm and is credited with implementing successful cost-cutting strategies to reduce the airline’s huge losses.

Delayed launch

RIA has yet to commence operations after committing to an end-of-2022 launch – the new carrier is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ and has its eye on scores of new aircraft, including a deal for 40 Airbus A350s and options for 40 more through sister airline SAUDIA.

It is unclear what is holding up the airline, but its extremely ambitious and rapid growth could be playing a part. Prior to appointing a CEO, a source at the airline told Arabian Business that “whoever takes this job will have to deliver the most ambitious targets you can imagine.”

What’s happening with RIA?

Eyebrows were raised after Saudi Arabian authorities announced plans to launch a second flag carrier backed by a huge $30 billion investment from the country’s PIF. With an initial launch date of 2024 first pushed back to Q4 2022 and subsequently delayed, RIA will operate out of Riyadh, while current national airline SAUDIA is based out of Jeddah.

Saudia Boeing 777-368(ER) HZ-AK28

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

As per its latest announcement in November, RIA planned to launch before the end of 2022, but clearly this didn’t materialize – the startup will now likely launch in the coming months. During its initial launch, RIA will focus on establishing itself regionally with a fleet of Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320 aircraft, before a later expansion of its international network and long-haul fleet.

What do you think about Tony Douglas’ departure as CEO at Saudi Arabian startup RIA? Do you see the airline becoming a major player on the global scene in the coming years? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Arabian Business

Source: simpleflying.com

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