In recent weeks, Douglas’ former employer Heathrow has been in the spotlight. Etihad was one of several airlines that denied the airport’s threat of legal action for refusing to cut its schedule despite demands to the contrary. It joined Emirates in launching a crushing attack on Heathrow and its boss, John Holland-Kaye don’t prepare for a flood of summer bookings.
Whether Heathrow is the worst culprit – as British Airways has suggested – is “an almost impossible question to answer,” says Douglas.
It is not alone: Frankfurt also has major problems. A few weeks ago, Amsterdam was in chaos. Manchester was having a really tough timeas well as Charles de Gaulle from Paris.
“I remember learning absolutely the hard way during my time at Heathrow – which is a long time ago now – that everything is great when you have control,” says Douglas.
“But the moment it gets out of control at Heathrow, it takes a lot longer to get it back because of the complexity. I know as far as recruitment goes, it will take time as it will in many other places.”
Holland-Kaye warned last week that plans to limit passenger numbers to 100,000 a day might have to be imposed Also next summer. The under-fire airport manager has warned it will take 18 months to recover from a chronic staff shortage.
“I don’t know if 18 months is appropriate. Because it’s an awfully long time to put up with an inferior experience, that’s for sure. Maybe he knows something we don’t know about security clearance. [But] I would not like to accept that. In terms of what that would mean for our guests, definitely,” says Douglas.
“What I’m saying is I wouldn’t question what might be behind John’s comments other than to say 18 months is just totally unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, like many other airlines, Etihad has been left in limbo by the US Hardships of the aircraft manufacturer Boeing. It has ordered 11,787 Dreamliner aircraft from the American company.
Scrutiny has intensified across the board following the deadly crashes of two short-haul Boeing 737 Max jetliners, including the Dreamliner, production of which has been halted as regulators conduct their investigations.
But unlike his peers, Douglas isn’t ready to tuck in the shoe.
“It was a real challenge, you know, my heart beats for Boeing. This is a complex problem on a large scale,” he says, adding that it’s “easy” to criticize Boeing’s efforts to get Max “back to smooth production.”
“There is probably no more complicated supply chain in the world. And my heart goes out to her. And many of the people who were involved in the original problem are no longer there. The people who are probably taking the hits of all hits every day and are doing their best to solve the problem.”
Douglas’ approach to Boeing stands in sharp contrast to the approach to Heathrow. It’s like knowing the Seattle company is trying their best – while the same cannot be said of Heathrow.
While Douglas might call Abu Dhabi “home” these days, this “Lancastrian boy” doesn’t hold a grudge for too long.
“I’m a bit of the old school,” he says. “When the blame is over, it’s probably better to get on with life.”