Emirates promoted two senior executives to deputy roles under President Tim Clark, setting up a competition between the company veterans to succeed the 74-year-old Briton who has led the Dubai-based airline for two decades. 

Chief Operations Officer Adel Al Redha and Chief Commercial Officer Adnan Kazim, both Emirati nationals who have spent decades at the company, each took on the added role of deputy president at the world’s largest long-haul airline, Emirates said Thursday in a statement. 

The promotions are among a slew of executive moves meant to foster growth and demonstrate the airline’s “bench strength” of local talent, the company said. Emirates, one of the region’s marquee companies, is embracing a trend playing out across the United Arab Emirates and Gulf countries as they appoint home-grown staff to higher-level roles. 

Emirates has set “clear and ambitious plans for its fleet, network, and business growth for the next 15 years,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in the statement. “The group is strengthening its executive bench, together with internal organizational alignment and enhancements.”

Succession at Emirates has been closely watched across the industry. Clark, a major voice in aviation, was originally set to retire in June 2020, but stayed on to help guide the carrier through the pandemic. He hasn’t said when he plans to step down. 

In May 2021, Sheikh Ahmed identified Al Redha and Gaith Al-Gaith, the head of Emirates’ regional partner FlyDubai, among the contenders for Clark’s job. FlyDubai, state-owned like Emirates, reported record profit on Thursday.

In all, 19 executives were promoted at Emirates, including eight UAE nationals and six women, the company said. 

Chief Financial Officer Michael Doersam adds the role of group services officer, while Executive Vice President Steve Allen becomes CEO at the Dnata airport services group. Female leaders Amira Al Awadhi and Amira Al Falasi were named senior vice presidents in HR operations and training roles, respectively.