Etihad Airways has reached out to a number of current and former airline chief executives to gauge their interest in being considered for the top job at the Abu Dhabi-based carrier, should it become available, according to people familiar with the matter.

At least three senior aviation figures have been approached by a head-hunting firm, the people said, asking not to be named as the process is confidential. No employment offers have been made and any talks are preliminary, they said.

An Etihad spokeswoman declined to comment.

The approaches raise questions about the future of current Etihad chief Tony Douglas, who led Etihad to a record first-half profit as long-haul travel rebounded with the easing of coronavirus curbs. Arabian Business reported earlier this month that the Briton had been approached about the CEO post at a new Saudi Arabian airline being founded in Riyadh to serve long-haul markets.

State-owned Etihad has undergone a major downsizing under Douglas since he joined in January 2018, repositioning as a mid-size carrier focused on the needs of Abu Dhabi and dropping a global super-hub model that saw it rack up $7 billion in losses.

That helped it ride out the disruption wrought by coronavirus lockdowns as other long-haul and hub-based carriers saw their markets evaporate.

Douglas, 59, previously worked for two years in procurement at the UK Ministry of Defence, after serving as CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports and occupying an executive role at London’s Heathrow airport.