Former Emirates Airline CCO Thierry Antinori, who resigned unexpectedly in May, has resurfaced in a new role at Qatar Airways.

He will become chief strategy and transformation officer, reporting directly to Group CEO Akbar Al Baker.

Antinori’s move will cause some raised eyebrows both in the Gulf and the wider industry, given the continuing diplomatic spat between Qatar on the one hand and the surrounding states of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, plus Egypt, on the other.

Ever since the row between the states erupted in June 2017 over Qatar’s stance on several issues that were deemed inimical to those of its neighbors, there have been no flights between the two sides in the dispute and Qatar Airways has faced considerable additional costs by having to re-route its flights around the airspace of its adversaries.

Earlier in 2019, the airline cited the additional costs of what it has consistently described as an illegal blockade as a factor behind its net loss for 2018.

Antinori had been with Emirates since 2011 and before his resignation was responsible for passenger sales, product, cargo and the frequent flyer program.

His departure was sudden, with a brief press release on May 12 announcing his separation from the Dubai-based carrier with immediate effect. Emirates gave no reason for his departure, although the parting of the ways came shortly after the airline announced a 68% drop in profits for fiscal 2018-19. Emirates recorded an operating profit margin of 0.9%, the weakest performance in 10 years.

Al Baker confirmed the appointment in a statement Sept. 3: “Thierry Antinori will join Qatar Airways as chief officer-strategy & transformation and will be reporting directly to me. Thierry brings with him extensive aviation executive experience with over 30 years in commercial, marketing and product management roles including large restructuring and transformation mandates from tier one airlines such as Air France, Lufthansa and most recently as chief commercial officer of Emirates Airlines.”

No details were given of which areas of strategy or transformation Antinori may be involved with. However, the extent of his role will be of interest, given Al Baker’s well-known close personal attention to the strategic direction of the Group.

Alan Dron,