Tony Douglas said at an event in Abu Dhabi Monday the airline had no intention of becoming a “boutique” operator, according to Bloomberg.
However, it is taking a more “strategic” approach to expansion after investments in airlines including Italy’s Alitalia and Germany’s Air Berlin failed to pay off. Both filed for insolvency last year after Etihad pulled funding.
“What we have embraced properly is a way to develop growth in a sustainable way. We will choose wisely; we will make sure that detail is well-attended to,” Douglas was quoted as saying.
The group CEO, who took on the role in January, is tasked with turning around Etihad’s fortunes after it posted a $1.87bn loss for its 2016 financial year.
Under his leadership it has pulled five Boeing 777-200LR passenger jets from its fleet and stopped using five Airbus cargo planes.
The airline has also suspended flights from Abu Dhabi to the Scottish capital Edinburgh and Australian city Perth from later this year and has admitted asking pilots to take voluntary unpaid leave but denied reports of widespread job cuts.
Douglas said on Monday the airline remained an “adolescent” in aviation terms as the youngest of the big three Gulf carriers, which include Dubai rival Emirates and Qatar Airways, but he suggested it still aspired to be an “airline of choice”.
He also did not rule out further cooperation with Emirates after signing a security deal in January.
Etihad’s declining fortunes had led to reports of a potential merger between the two being considered. Emirates president Tim Clark has previously denied any talks are underway at present but said any decision would be down to the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“I do admire what I observe from our great friends in Dubai,” Douglas admitted. “We will continue to consider where appropriate the things that we could do together.”