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This time it's personal - Q and A with Saad Hammad

By Margaret Canning

Published 15/12/2015

Flybe chief executive Saad Hammad has close links with Northern Ireland through his family and
is very excited about the airline’s prospects
Flybe chief executive Saad Hammad has close links with Northern Ireland through his family and is very excited about the airline’s prospects

Q. What’s the best piece of business (or life) advice you’ve ever been given?

A. Focus on the people and the money will follow.

Q. What piece of advice would you pass on to someone starting out in business?

A. Ask lots of questions.

Q. What was your best business decision?

A. Rescuing Flybe from going bust. If Flybe didn’t exist, you would have had to invent it.

Q. If you weren’t doing this job, what would be your other career?

A. Tennis pro (but probably now on the veterans’ circuit)

Q. What was your last holiday? Where are you going next?

A. Long Island, New York over the summer. French Caribbean in the winter.

Q. What are your hobbies/interest?

A. Modern American fiction, theatre, film and chess.

Q. What is your favourite sport and team?

A. Tennis — and I support Arsenal.

Q. And have you ever played any sports?

A. I played racquet sports for my university college. I played cricket, rugby and football at school and I play tennis most weekends now.

Q. If you enjoy reading, can you recommend a book?

A. The Little Prince by Antoine St Exupery. It’s a simple yet profound book. It contains one of my favourite lines: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Q. How would you describe your early life?

A. All four of us in my family went through the sausage machine of an English education. I was born in Lebanon but went to boarding school in east Sussex, then studied philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Oxford and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. But I feel more British than anything else. Now we’re a classic diaspora family. My sister is in Greenwich in Connecticut, my brother is in the UK and my other sister in Beirut.

Q. Have you any economic predictions?

A. I’m cautiously optimistic about the macro-environment but we’ll continue to be careful and prudent and go for sustainable growth. 

Q. How would you assess your time so far at Flybe?

A. Clearly we have done all the big stuff and the heavy lifting has been done. One thing everyone has learnt is that if you control your costs, you control your destiny. So we must never let our costs get out of control. It’s about discipline and making sure we are rigorous. It’s about being effective with your spending.   

Q. How do you sum up working in airlines?

A. It’s a fun industry but a really good piece of advice I received is, don’t fall in love with it but stay dispassionate and calm and make good economic decisions. It’s a very challenging industry because there are so many factors — geopolitical factors, as well as weather, fuel prices, etc — that you can’t control. But I’m a sucker for a challenge.

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