Introduction: Aviation Business Power List 2011


Robeel Haq , April 17th, 2011

Welcome to the inaugural Aviation Business Power 25 list for 2011 – a detailed ranking of the leading airline CEOs in the Arab world.

After much research and analysis into the industry, we have produced a special 12-page report that profiles the most influential heads of airlines across the geographical spread of the Arab Air Carriers Association (AACO) – a region that includes countries in the Middle East, Levant and North Africa.

The power list contains a diverse combination of executives, from the well-established leaders that have pioneered industry growth to their lower-profile counterparts, who hold significant influence in the region but appear to shun the limelight. Of course, a number of lesser-known names have been included too – the executives that have proved their mettle in a short period of time and have the potential to climb higher in future rankings.

Congratulations to each of the airlines chiefs that were featured in this year’s Aviation Business Power 25 list. Unfortunately, with such a limited number to work with, you may notice a few surprising omissions. In fact, our editorial team had to make some truly difficult decisions and we look forward to re-evaluating the rankings in 2012, based on activities in 2011. We should stress that the list is subjective and the rankings have been based on events in the past year. We accept that readers will have their own views on almost every position, so our apologies in advance to anyone offended by their inclusion (or non-inclusion).

Each day this week, we will include five entries from the list, with the top positions being revealed on Thursday 14th April 2011. Positions 6-25 are included below, click on the names for more details.

1. HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chief executive, Emirates Airline
2. Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer, Qatar Airways
3. James Hogan, chief executive officer, Etihad Airways
4. Adel Ali, group chief executive officer, Air Arabia
5. Samer Majali, chief executive officer, Gulf Air
6. Engineer ‎Khaled Al-Molhem, director general, Saudi Arabian Airlines
7. Hussein Dabbas, chief executive officer and president, Royal Jordanian
8. Peter Hill, chief executive officer, Oman Air
9. Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive officer, FlyDubai
10. Hussein Massoud, chief executive officer, EgyptAir Holding Company
11. Stephan Pichler, chief executive officer, Jazeera Airways
12. Mohamad El-Hout, chairman and director general, Middle East Airlines
13. Simon Stewart, chief executive officer, Nasair
14. Driss Benhima, chief executive officer, Royal Air Maroc
15. Nabil Chettaoui, group chief executive officer, Tunisair
16. Hamad Abdullatif Al-Falah, chairman and managing director, Kuwait Airways
17. Abdelwahid Bouabdallah, chief executive officer, Air Algérie
18. Emhemed M. Abrebish, chief executive officer, Libyan Airlines
19. Adbulkhalek Al-Kadi, chief executive officer and chairman, Yemenia
20. Amar Abdullah Akari, chief executive officer, Afriqiyah Airways
21. Ghaida Abdullatif, chief executive officer, Syrian Arab Airlines
22. Mohammed Al-Arrasha, chief executive officer, Felix Airways
23. Omar Jahameh, chief executive officer, RAK Airways
24. Kifah H. Jabbar, director general, Iraqi Airways
25. Al Obaid Fadl Almoula, general manager, Sudan Airways

LAST MINUTE CHANGE. George Cooper, chief executive officer, Wataniya Airways


1. HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chief executive, Emirates Airline
Although the most powerful executives in today’s aviation industry have traditionally started their careers with humble beginnings, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum has a different story to tell. Back in 1985, the younger brother of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the late ruler of Dubai, was plunged into the deep end after being appointed as president of Dubai’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), a local governing body that overlooked the activities of Dubai International Airport and Dubai Duty Free, amongst others. While this seemed like a dream start to his aviation career, it was actually a few months later that Sheikh Ahmed truly made his mark, being selected as chairman of a start-up carrier that would operate with two leased aircraft and three regional destinations. Under his leadership, that airline – Emirates – has since evolved into the world’s largest carrier by international passenger-kilometres flown, according to statistics by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), with close to 100 destinations currently being served by a fleet of 140 aircraft, plus another 200 planes on order. His midas touch has also been evident in the success of Dubai’s DCA, which has since been restructured to incorporate both the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) and Dubai Airports, for which Sheikh Ahmed is currently president and chairman, respectively. With such accomplishments, his ranking at the top of this year’s power list is hard to refute, and this is simply the latest in a growing collection of honours that Sheikh Ahmed has collected around the world. During the 1994 Farnborough Airshow for example, he became a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, one of the industry’s oldest and most respected professional associations, while at the 2003 Dubai Airshow, he was the recipient of France’s Legion of Honour, the country’s highest civilian award.

DID YOU KNOW? Sheikh Ahmed holds a Bachelors Degree from the University of Denver in Colorado, USA

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2. Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer, Qatar Airways
Celebrating his 15th anniversary as chief executive officer of Qatar Airways next year, Akbar Al Baker has been universally acclaimed for transforming the national carrier into a global powerhouse in the aviation industry. Passenger flights to the airline’s 100th destination, Aleppo, commenced this month and the Qatar Airways fleet will more than triple is size over the coming years, with 93 aircraft at present and a staggering 300 more on order, including 60 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and five Airbus A380 Superjumbos – quite a leap from the four aircraft that operated on regional routes when Al Baker first stepped into the CEO role. Its evident, therefore, that if anyone can challenge Sheikh Ahmed for the top spot in our power list, it’s Akbar Al Baker. With a degree in economics and commerce, the 51-year old also serves as CEO of Doha International Airport, Qatar Duty Free Company, Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, Qatar Distribution Company, and Qatar Aviation Services.

DID YOU KNOW? Akbar Al Baker holds a private pilot licence

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3. James Hogan, chief executive officer, Etihad Airways
Following the surprise resignation of Robert Strodel as Etihad Airways’ first chief executive officer in 2006, only 10 months into the position, the industry was awash with rumours about a high-profile replacement. Several names were discussed as potential candidates, but the vacancy was eventually filled by Australian native James Hogan, who brought more than 30 years of trade expertise to the UAE’s national carrier, with previous stints as CEO of Gulf Air and COO of British Midland International (bmi). Looking at the airline’s progress since this time, with the introduction of 33 new destinations and 35 new aircraft, not to forget a 266% increase in passenger volumes, there’s little doubt that Hogan’s selection has been vindicated. Amongst the 54-year-old’s biggest achievements was a large-scale order for up to 205 aircraft in July 2008, worth approximately US$43 billion at list price, which would prepare Etihad Airways for its ambitious long-term growth plans. Later this year, he’s also expected to achieve a long-awaited breakeven for the Abu Dhabi-based airline, with sustainable profitability from 2012 onwards. Such accomplishments were celebrated last year, when Hogan was named Visionary of the Year by CEO magazine, and along with Sheikh Ahmed, he’s also a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

DID YOU KNOW? As a teenager, James Hogan worked as a trampoline installer

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4. Adel Ali, group chief executive officer, Air Arabia
Hailed for pioneering the concept of budget travel in the Middle East, Adel Ali is best known for heading the region’s first low-cost carrier, Air Arabia. However, before launching the Sharjah-based airline in October 2003, the industry veteran had proved his mettle as commercial vice president of Gulf Air and general manager of British Airways in the Middle East and Africa. Indeed, during a successful 20-year stint at the UK’s national carrier, Ali was bestowed with numerous honours, such as the British Airways Awards for Excellence and Middle East Tourism Contribution Awards. It seems likely that his trophy cabinet has since been expanded to accommodate a regular flow of awards for developing Air Arabia in the Middle East’s leading low-cost carrier, as well as the first publically-owned airline in the Arab world, all within seven years. And with 4.45 million passengers being served last year, Ali now overlooks a workforce of more than 1000 dedicated staff, with a brand new fleet of 27 Airbus A320 now operating to 67 destinations from three regional hubs. In addition, to coincide with an ambition network expansion, Air Arabia’s fleet will more than double by 2016 to over 50 planes.

DID YOU KNOW? Air Arabia’s seat load factor increased to 83% in 2010

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5. Samer Majali, chief executive officer, Gulf Air
Samer Majali is often described as a perfect role model for ambitious youngsters in the Middle East aviation industry. After completing his master’s degree in air transport management from the UK’s Cranfield University, Majali started his career with Royal Jordanian, where he remained for 30-years in a variety of executive positions, from flight operations and aircraft maintenance to corporate planning and passenger services. Based on his immaculate track record in each of these roles, the Jordanian national was promoted to chief executive officer in 2002 and overlooked one of the most successful periods in the national carrier’s history. In was the success of his turnaround programme that captured the attention of neighbouring Gulf Air, which recruited Majali as chief executive officer to spearhead its own transformation strategy in 2009. Almost two years later and results have already been visible, even with the ash cloud and H1N1 disasters, the tail-end of the global recession, and more recently the local uprisings. Today, Gulf Air’s workforce has been slashed by hundreds to make the company leaner, while 14 new aircraft have been delivered over the past 14 months to phase-out older models, and within this year alone, Basra, Addis Ababa and Isfahan have been added to the airline’s network, with Geneva and Milan to follow this month. Outside of Gulf Air, Majali has been president of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) and chairman of the IATA Board of Governors, while he currently serves as a member of the IATA Board of Governors and AACO Executive Committee.

DID YOU KNOW? The average age of Gulf Air’s fleet has been reduced to 6.4 years

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6. Engineer ‎Khaled Al-Molhem, director general, Saudi Arabian Airlines
Saudi Arabian Airlines may have a lower profile that its neighbouring counterparts, but with a fleet that is basically equal to Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways combined, it’s apparent that the Kingdom’s national carrier is still a force to reckon with. Sitting at the helm of this empire is Khalid Abdullah Al Molhem, who was hired to replace Khaled Ben-Bakr as director general in 2006, following a successful five-year career as president of Saudi Telecom Company. At that time, the foundations were being laid for Saudi Arabian Airlines to be privatised and given Al Molhem’s own experience with privatising Saudi Telecom Company, his selection was understandable. The 54-year-old started by dividing the airline into a number of separate businesses, such as maintenance, catering, cargo, training and ground handling, with a view to selling them off and privatising the remaining operations in future years. To attract investors, Al Molhem has spent a significant amount to upgrade Saudi Arabian Airline’s technology software, place orders for Airbus A320s and A330s, and refresh the interiors of 22 Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. Recent codeshare agreements have also been signed with the likes of Air France, while his workforce has been reduced by almost 10,000 – from a peak of 25,000 in 2004 – assisted by the success of a redundancy programme. And finally, to enhance connectivity, the carrier was signed as the latest member of the SkyTeam global alliance on 10th January 2011.

DID YOU KNOW? Khalid Abdullah Al Molhem has completed two degrees from the University of Evansville in Indiana; one in electrical engineering and the other in engineering management

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7. Hussein Dabbas, chief executive officer and president, Royal Jordanian
Hussein Dabbas is well-known within the aviation industry for remaining calm under pressure, a characteristic that has steadily been developed over his 31-year strong career at Royal Jordanian. After joining the national carrier in 1979, at the tender age of 30, he has proved his mettle in a number of different positions, from general manager of operations in the United States, to vice president of marketing, sales and services. However, it wasn’t until August 2009 that Dabbas really took centre stage, replacing Samer Majali as the airline’s chief executive officer. The executive refers to Royal Jordanian as a boutique airline, with a fleet of 29 aircraft that serve 58 destinations around the world, in addition to a broader network of more than 750 locations through its membership of the oneworld global airline alliance. During the course of last year, passenger volumes increased by 13% compared to the same period in 2009, reaching a total of 3 million. However, shunted by 20% higher operating costs, the airline’s gross net profits dropped from $40.3 million in 2009 to $13.5 million last year, a staggering 66%. Looking ahead, Dabbas states that no effort will be spared to control costs, increase revenues and open new markets to boost Royal Jordanian’s presence on a regional and international level. A fleet modernisation programme has also commenced, with all existing Airbus A340s being refitted to include new seating, along with in-seat, in-flight entertainment. In addition, two Airbus A330s and an Embraer 175 have been introduced over the past year, while new aircraft will be drafted in 2011 and 2012 to replace four A320s and two A321s. And then, of course, there is the delivery of 11 much-awaited (and much-delayed) Boeing 787s, which will become the backbone of Royal Jordanian’s long-haul operations, initially being placed on North America routes, including New York, Chicago, Detroit and Toronto.

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8. Peter Hill, chief executive officer, Oman Air
According to a senior official from Oman Air’s board of directors, Peter Hill was selected as chief executive officer of the national carrier in July 2008 for possessing “the right blend of seasoned leadership, strategic skills, international experience and airline knowledge to meet industry challenges and capitalise on future opportunities”. These characteristics were developed over the past 50-years in which the veteran has worked at British Overseas Airways Corporation (now British Airways), Gulf Air and Emirates. Hill also served as chief executive officer of SriLankan Airways, although he left under controversy, after his work permit was cancelled in December 2007 for apparently refusing to bump passengers from a London flight to make way for Sri Lanka’s president. However, since being snapped-up by Oman Air months later, Hill has led the airline’s transformation into a fast-growing international player. In the last year alone, he has introduced a new fleet of Airbus A330s, with new cabins, seats, IFEC systems, menus and staff uniforms. In addition, he has expanded Oman Air’s network of routes to include new destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia and introduced new three-class services to a number of existing routes. In addition, Hill has reorganised Oman Air’s management structures, signed new deals with technical support partners and ordered five new Embraer 175 aircraft for delivery from 2011.

DID YOU KNOW? Peter Hill was part of the small original team that put together the first business plan for Emirates, alongside Maurice Flanagan

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9. Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive officer, FlyDubai
Equipped with a business administration degree from the University of Arizona, Ghaith Al Ghaith returned to Dubai from the United States with dreams of a successful career in the aviation industry. That journey started in 1986, when the graduate was hired by Emirates Airline as a sales trainee and received a constant string of promotions, until peaking as executive vice president of commercial operations worldwide. Evidently, this progression was closely watched by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Group chairman, who named Al Ghaith as chief executive officer of Dubai’s first low-cost airline, FlyDubai, in 2008. Operations commenced the following year and Al Ghaith has successfully developed a fleet of 13 Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft and a network of 30 destinations, including Bahrain, Colombo, Doha, Karachi and Muscat. Amongst his biggest achievements was the recent introduction of in-flight entertainment systems for passengers, a rarity for low-cost carriers, especially in the Middle East region.

DID YOU KNOW? Ghaith Al Ghaith was named Aviation CEO of the Year by CEO Magazine in 2009

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10. Hussein Massoud, chief executive officer, EgyptAir Holding Company
Since his appointment as chief executive officer of EgyptAir Holding Company in September 2009, Engineer Hussein Massoud has remained the most influential figure at EgyptAir, in addition to sister companies EgyptAir Cargo and EgyptAir Express. The 63-year-old has proved himself in the most difficult of situations, from a threatened backlist by the European Commission in 2009 to a high-profile uprising in Egypt this year. In between the hullabaloo, Massoud has expanded the national carrier’s fleet to 70 aircraft, including the delivery of its latest Boeing 737-800 last November (an additional five of which will be delivered by the end of 2012) and its first Airbus A330-300 last August, which introduced mobile and internet services onboard for the first time. Prior to his time at EgyptAir, Massoud served in the Egyptian Air Force for 22-years, has been the chairman of Smart Aviation and CEO of Mitrage, and played an active role in many government and non-government associations, including the Elite Aviation Engineers Association and Canada Egypt Business Council.

DID YOU KNOW? Hussein Massoud speakers English and French, in addition to his native Arabic

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11. Stephan Pichler, chief executive officer, Jazeera Airways
Shortly after the departure of Andrew Cowen as Jazeera Airways CEO for “personal reasons” in 2009, less than six months into the job, the position was offered to Stefan Pichler, who was serving as chief commercial offer at Australia’s Virgin Blue at the time. He accepted the challenge and was tasked with exercising “total accountability” for the airline’s financial, commercial and operational performance. Pichler has used previous experience at Virgin Blue to his advantage, in addition to past stints as executive vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Lufthansa and CEO of Thomas Cook, which he built from a national German tour operator to the world’s second largest leisure group. And now, under his leadership, Jazeera Airways has undergone a reduction in staff numbers and other cost-cutting measures to improve its 2010 earnings by US$19.4 million over the previous year’s earnings, which resulted in a net loss of $10.07 million in comparison to $29.4 million in 2009. By year-end, 1.3 million passengers were carried in total, or 15% of Kuwait International Airport passengers, on a total of 14,156 flights across the Jazeera Airways network.

DID YOU KNOW? A former internationally ranked marathon runner, Stefan Pichler started his career as head of sport promotions at NIKE International

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12. Mohamad El-Hout, chairman and director general, Middle East Airlines
There was a certain level of controversy about the appointed of Mohamed El-Hoult as chairman and director of Middle East Airlines (MEA) in 1998. At the time, Lebanon’s national carrier was overstaffed and made a net loss of $87 million, so El-Hoult’s background as director of real estate and financial assets at the central bank had failed to impressive his critics. According to them, Middle East Airlines needed someone with a proven record in airline operations. However, with a five-year turnaround programmed that included more than 1000 redundancies and revised contracts with pilots, MEA returned to a profit of $22 million in 2003. Today, it has a fleet of around 15 aircraft and a network of 30 destinations in the Middle East, West Africa and Europe. El-Hoult further silenced his detractors last year by welcoming two Airbus A320s, while Baghdad, Erbil and Al Medina were introduced as new routes, and flights resumed to Berlin and Brussels. He also negotiated a breakthrough agreement for MEA to join the global SkyTeam alliance in 2012, making it the second member from the Middle East.

DID YOU KNOW? MEA posted a net profit in 2009 of $105 million

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13. Simon Stewart, chief executive officer, Nasair
Following a 12-year career at EasyJet, where he progressed from line captain on the Boeing 737 to senior managerial roles, Simon Stewart was deemed the perfect candidate to lead the growth of Saudi Arabia’s low-cost carrier Nasair in August 2010. Based in Riyadh, the chief executive officer has wasted no time, with six domestic and 21 international destinations now being served, including the launch of three Turkish routes last month – Istanbul, Antakya and Adana. Nasair’s fleet has also grown to 14 aircraft, with a combination of Airbus A320s and Embraer E190 / E195s. However, despite the progress, there are major challenges ahead for Stewart, who has been battling with Saudi authorities to remove price caps on domestic flights, which would enable Nasair to benefit from the same fuel subsidiaries as Saudi Arabian Airlines. He will also be expected to meet expectations for a profit increase at the carrier, with a reported goal of 25% growth this year in comparison to 2010 levels, when Nasair failed to breakeven.

DID YOU KNOW? Simon Stewart is a member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Fatigue Risk Management Systems Task Force and helps to generate guidance material for member states

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14. Driss Benhima, chief executive officer, Royal Air Maroc
Around five years ago, Driss Benhima was announced as chief executive officer of Royal Air Maroc by King Mohammed VI, with a remit to develop the Moroccan national carrier into a world-class player in the aviation industry. Despite slow progress with that ambition, Benhima has developed a network of 75 destinations that are served by 50 aircraft in total, with another 18 planes on order. This includes five of the much-awaited Boeing 787, which will make Royal Air Maroc the first carrier in Africa to operate the Dreamliner. At the same time, there has been increased competition from a wave of European low-cost carriers, after an open sky agreement with signed between Morocco and the EU. This has impacted Royal Air Maroc’s performance, especially as the airline has already struggled with a damaging reputation for customer service as a result of its previous monopoly, highlighted by its two-star rating by Skytrax – normally assigned for low performing airlines. Benhima has stated that the open sky agreement has “endangered” Royal Air Maroc’s future and needs to be revisited. Outside of the national carrier, he also serves as chairman of the African Airline Association (AFRAA).

DID YOU KNOW? Driss Benhima has received the Wissam Al-Arch distinction, which is equivalent to the French Légion d'Honneur.

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15. Nabil Chettaoui, group chief executive officer, Tunisair
A number of chief executive officers have been trialled and tested at Tunisair over the years, with suggestions from certain quarters that 15 different CEOs were drafted between 1976 and 2007. However, following the success of his work at Tunisia’s civil aviation and airports office, where he overlooked the privatisation of two airports, Nabil Chettaoui was hired as the national carrier’s latest CEO in 2007 and remains in power to this day. Last year, he unveiled the Tunisair 2010-2018 development strategy, which was split into two components – a fleet renewal and network expansion. Under this strategy, 10 A320s, three A330s and three A350s were purchased to replace older aircraft, along with options for two A320s and one A350. The first Airbus A320 was delivered on April 2010, while the second is expected in April 2011. A contract was also signed with Rolls-Royce for Trent 700 engines worth US$200 million at list price to power the three A330s. Meanwhile, the network expansion has focused on Europe, with new routes and increased frequency being added to the likes of Venice, Berlin, Frankfurt and Zurich.

DID YOU KNOW? Nabil Chettaoui has served as president of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO)

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16. Hamad Abdullatif Al-Falah, chairman and managing director, Kuwait Airways
Hamad Abdullatif Al-Falah has a growing list of concerns as managing director and chairman of Kuwait Airways. The national carrier was once a major player in the Middle East aviation industry, but has lost ground with the continued growth of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, as well as home-grown competitors such as Jazeera Airways and Wataniya Airways. In addition, its legal wrangle with Iraqi Airways – unresolved since the Gulf War – has placed an additional strain on the growth potential of Kuwait Airways, with no profits being turned since the 1990 conflict. However, Al-Falah has emerged as a strong advocate of privatising the national carrier to fund the long-term expansion of its aircraft fleet and route network. He appointed Citigroup, Ernst & Young, and Seabury to handle the privatisation, which is apparently in the final stages of transformation and will involve a 40% stake being sold to the public, while another 35% will be sold to a long-term investor.

DID YOU KNOW? Kuwait Airways has a fleet of 19 aircraft with an average age of 16 years

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17. Abdelwahid Bouabdallah, chief executive officer, Air Algérie
After replacing the late Mohamed Tayed Benouis as chief executive officer of Air Algérie on 1st March 2009, Abdelwahid Bouabdallah has embarked on a development campaign to almost double the airline’s passenger volumes from 3.2 million to 6 million by 2014. At the heart of his strategy is a fleet modernisation programme, with 400 million euros being invested for the renovation of existing aircraft cabins and livery, while Air Algérie will be operating a total of 17 Boeing 737-800s by the end of 2011, which will form the backbone of its short-haul fleet. In addition, the 58-year-old is keen to expand the national carrier’s international network, especially in terms of European routes, and has signed an agreement for Air Algérie to become a member of the SkyTeam alliance.

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18. Emhemed M. Abrebish, chief executive officer, Libyan Airlines
Emhemed M. Abrebish has been overlooking Libyan Airlines during a major period of transition. After being grouped with Libya’s other state carrier, Afriqiyah Airways, under the Libyan African Aviation Holding Company umbrella in 2008, there has been a concerted effort to merge the sister companies. Abrebish has played a fundamental role in this process and the merger is scheduled for completion in 2012, subject to government approval. Of course, there could be delays as a result of the recent uprisings in Libya, so the executive has shifted his attention to developing the Libyan Airlines fleet, with an order being placed for seven Airbus A320, which will be equipped with On Air in-flight connectivity services, allowing passengers to stay in touch with colleagues, family and friends while they travel. The first plane in the order was delivered last September and has been earmarked for domestic and regional routes from the Tripoli hub.

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19. Adbulkhalek Al-Kadi, chief executive officer and chairman, Yemenia
With a lower profile that several of its neighbouring airlines, Yemenia currently serves a network of more than 30 destinations in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia with a fleet of 10 aircraft. However, the national carrier’s CEO Captain Adbulkhalek Al-Kadi has outlined a major growth strategy over the coming years, with a US$700 million contract being awarded to Airbus for 10 A320s, which will be delivered in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The planes will supported a predicted 10% annual growth rate in passenger numbers this year, which itself will be fuelled by additional flights to China, France, Germany and Syria in the first half of 2011. Al-Kadi has also announced plans to migrate the carrier’s passenger management and distribution to technology specialist SITA, which is expected to reduce costs by 30% and prepare Yemenia for more direct sales from passengers.

DID YOU KNOW? Adbulkhalek Al-Kadi is a licensed captain for the Airbus A330 and Boeing 747

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20. Amar Abdullah Akari, chief executive officer, Afriqiyah Airways
Afriqiyah Airways CEO Amar Abdullah Akari has been played the waiting game for the past couple of years. A proposed merger between the airline and Libya’s other state carrier, Libyan Airlines, has experienced a series of delays. Government approvals are still awaited and following the recent uprising in Libya, these are not expected until at least 2012. And then there’s the matter of limited capacity at Tripoli Airport, which has impacted Akari’s ability to launch routes. However, with a new terminal in construction, Afriqiyah Airways is looking to increase its frequencies to several destinations in Africa and Europe. Fleet modernisation is also on the horizon and an order has been placed for Airbus A320s and A330s, as well as six A350-800s, which are scheduled for delivery in 2017 onwards, allow the carrier to expand its long-haul operations.

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21. Ghaida Abdullatif, chief executive officer, Syrian Arab Airlines
The first woman to be featured in our power list this year, and indeed the only woman to be featured, Ghaida Abdullatif has been increasingly challenged by the stalling of sanction talks between Syria and the United States. She has already purchased a couple of ATR turboprop aircraft for short-haul flights, but with a desperate need to expand the long-haul fleet of Syrian Arab Airlines, Abdullatif may well be forced to purchase Russia’s Tupolev planes, even though the aircraft are generally considered less comfortable and fuel efficient than their Boeing and Airbus counterparts. However, Abdullatif is likely to trial and a couple of Tupolevs before making a full-order. She has also been upgraded the national carrier’s technology infrastructure, with a seven-year contract being awarded to SITA for the implementation and maintenance of a global hybrid solutions.

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22. Mohammed Al-Arrasha, chief executive officer, Felix Airways
Having served as the chief executive officer of Yemen-based Felix Airways since its launch, Mohammed Al-Arrasha has developed a fleet of two Bombardier CRJ700s and two Bombardier CRJ200s, while the low-cost carrier’s network has grown to include eight domestic destinations, as well as international routes in Oman, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti. According to reports, 680,000 passengers were uplifted during the first two years of operations and Al-Arrasha is now investing in more aircraft, including more CRJs and either additional the Bombardier C-Series or the Airbus A320, to expand into further destinations. After securing a contract with the Yemeni government to export fresh products, such as fish and vegetables, he has also entered the final stages of acquiring a Boeing 727 freighter for the launch of cargo services.

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23. Omar Jahameh, chief executive officer, RAK Airways
Oman Jahameh was initially hired by RAK Airways as chief financial officer in August 2008 and was promoted to his current role as CEO in January 2010. He has been influential is establishing a business model for the carrier, which is now positioned in the niche market between well-established commercial airlines such as Emirates and Etihad and the more recently established low-cost carriers such as FlyDubai and Air Arabia. The model has been well-received by the public, with more than 400 bookings being made on the RAK Airways website within four hours of the portal being unveiled and 70% of sales from the UAE have hailed from the northern emirates. Jahameh has previously worked at Qatar Airways and Airport International Group in a range of functions, including project management, procurement, finance and marketing. With an MBA degree, Omar is a certified risk analyst and has an airline management diploma from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). He has also been certified as a managerial accountant by the Institute of Certified Managerial Accountants.

DID YOU KNOW? At present, RAK Airways is operating with a couple of single-aisle Boeing 737-800 commercial jets, with plans to expand the fleet as demand grows in the future

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24. Kifah H. Jabbar, director general, Iraqi Airways
Since his appointment as director general of Iraqi Airways in 2006, Kifah H. Jabbar has emerged as a rather controversial figure in the industry. After travelling on the national carrier’s first flight to London in more than 20 years last April, Jabbar was temporarily stranded in the United Kingdom and the aircraft impounded due to a British court order, which was the result of a legal wrangle between Iraqi Airways and Kuwait Airways – a dispute that has been unresolved since the Gulf war. He was later allowed to leave Britain. Suggestions have since been made that Iraqi Airways could be declared bankrupt, meaning Kuwait Airways would need to drop its case. However, Jabbar recently signed an agreement to migrate Iraqi Airways to SITA’s technology solutions for passenger management, flight operations, data link services, communications and baggage tracing. SITA was also contracted to supply, install and maintain all of the IT equipment at the airline’s 20 offices across Iraq and seven other countries worldwide, suggesting that a future for Iraqi Airways has not been ruled out.

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25. Al Obaid Fadl Almoula, general manager, Sudan Airways
As general manager of Sudan Airways, Al Obaid Fadi Almoula has struggled with a limited fleet of nine aircraft, including Airbus A300, A310 and A320s, as well as the Fokker 50, which together have an average age of 20.2 years. The lack of modern aircraft has created a number of challenges in recent years, for example Sudan’s CAA grounded the airline for a month due to breaking operations and administrational rules in June 2008 – although not related to the carrier’s accident in the same month - while Sudan airlines were placed on the European Union blacklist in March 2010. Unfortunately, without any aircraft on order, the situation is unlikely to be rectified in the short-term.

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LAST MINUTE CHANGE. George Cooper, chief executive officer, Wataniya Airways
Until the last time, George Cooper was featured in this year’s power list, but he’s had a difficult month, which has resulted in his position being lost for now. Appointed as chief executive officer of Wataniya Airways around a year before the Kuwaiti airline commenced operations, Cooper brings more than 30-years of experience from companies such as British Airways, OnAir and SITA. He overlooked the process for obtaining an air operators certificate, building a fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft, launching the first route to Dubai and flying more than a quarter of a million guests during its first year of operation. However, cracks started to appear in November 2010, when the airline announced that routes would be cancelled to four cities and staff numbers would be reduced due to market saturation. Unfortunately, that strategy failed to salvage Wataniya Airways and a follow-up announced was made last month that operations were immediately being ceased until further notice, placing the long-term fate of the airline, as well as Cooper himself, into question.

DID YOU KNOW? George Cooper was selected as the winner of the British Excellence Award 2008 in recognition of his efforts in launching Wataniya Airlines

RELATED ARTICLE - EDITOR'S NOTE ON POWER LIST


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