Tony Douglas, CEO of the Etihad Aviation Group, is confident that a strong recovery is around the corner and hopes for a complete transformation of the airline by 2023, despite the setbacks resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak.
In an interview with CNN's Richard Quest, Douglas said 2020 was the most challenging year in history. “Covid is a pandemic none of us have seen before, but as an optimistic person, I certainly hope that things will get a lot better in 2021 and beyond,” Douglas said.
Discussing the steps taken to ensure utmost safety during travel, Douglas said: "From August of last year, Etihad became the first airline in the world -- and still is today the first airline in the world – that implemented 100 per cent PCR testing for everybody at point of origin and point of arrival."
"So you literally couldn't get onboard unless we could assure you of your wellness. But also, you could be assured of everybody else who was onboard had undertaken an equivalent set of testing," he said.
"And as the vaccine becomes now more industrially available, what we've already started to see is the benefits, of course, of the vaccination program. And I think, going forward, that's going to be a big part to the return to normal travel," Douglas highlighted.
Douglas noted that for the last two months, the airline has seen a very slow improvement in the situation in terms of passenger numbers, which in one sense, is a move in the right direction.
Speaking about the company’s performance, Douglas said the carrier's performance in 2019 showed that EBITDA touched $600 milliion, meaning the group is on track for its transformation program.
"We had a target for a complete turnaround by around 2023 so we understood that this was a long game."
"Profitability is absolutely around the corner, despite losses from the pandemic. We've used every opportunity to fundamentally establish a different set of foundations for Etihad. And whilst, obviously, there's no end in sight to Covid, we're still confident 2023, 2024 we'll be where we said we were going to be,” he said.