Top Etihad Airways Exec Exposed: Accused Of Using LinkedIn Sock Puppet Account To Promote Himself, Blast Rivals

The Chief Revenue and Commercial Officer at Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways Arik De is being accused of using a fake sock puppet social media presence named Ivander Sebastien to “frequently and consistently mention[..] what a wonderful job his creator is doing” and – as another industry insider put it – to talk “trash on ex-employers and people he doesn’t like.”

He’s being called out by a former Chief Commercial Officer of IndiGo who himself lists experience at the Vice President level of Etihad Airways.

Ethiopian, LATAM, Iberia and Qantas may not like learning that this sock puppet account claimed experience as a senior executive at their airlines (Mr. De doesn’t appear to have worked at any of them, either).

New Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal

Probably the number one thing that De appears to have used this account – that he was paying LinkedIn premium for – is to talk himself up, however he talked down others (including former employers) as well.

Here he seems to be taking shots at Air Asia, WestJet, and TAP Air Portugal (and boosting his own past role at TAP). Arik De lists experience working at all three on his LinkedIn profile.

Here he appears to be trashing Virgin Atlantic, Aeromexico, and Vistara (he’s an Aeromexico alum as well).

This account seems to be very interested in issues of diversity. These are just a couple of the comments about it.

Interestingly, he occasionally uses the account to tell certain truths that he wouldn’t be so unguarded with publicly using his real name – such as the collusion and benefit to incumbent airlines pursued by the International Air Transport Association and how takeoff and landing slots are really government subsidies that harm competition.

Etihad is in the process of going public, having turned around its financial fortunes from a being a major loss-maker (and loss-leader for Abu Dhabi) and becoming a profitable enterprise.

Etihad A380 First Class Cabin

It is likely lucky that it isn’t publicly traded yet. Pseudonymous web postings by the CEO of Whole Foods attracted the attention of the SEC when he wrote about his own company and about a competitor that he attempted to acquire.

The account’s content, by the way, appears to go back to when De worked at TAP Air Portugal, before moving to Etihad.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How is this news? Social media is full of people creating fake accounts to self-promote.

  2. I don’t really understand the above indicated legal parallel to Whole Foods since the USG doesn’t even claim universal jurisdiction for what was used to try to hold Whole Foods accounts under US law. Merely serving the US with air traffic under the relevant treaties applicable to EY service to and from the US doesn’t constitute such a nexus akin to the Whole Foods nexus for US prosecution of Whole Foods or its execs.

    Fabricated internet trolls and troll armies are part of the political, business/professional and social picture in the world nowadays. While some people are again calling for a governmental elimination of “anonymous” social media profiles, people should be wary of the kind of privacy intrusion that means. But also keep in mind that the private social media, bulletin boards and blog companies aren’t really any better about respecting user privacy. Actually too often such companies are very lousy about user privacy too and are much more poorly regulated about that than even some government actors.

  3. The first giveaway is he is a “C-level” employee at Ethiopian. There are no white people on executive at Ethiopian, every one knows this. They are a very proud Ethiopian company!

  4. Fantastic!

    Some people work hard and some people fluff their public image with fake LI accounts.

    Reputation in tatters and the laughing stock of the industry Mr De… good luck looking anyone in the eye again (without wondering if they are laughing at you behind your back).

  5. well Arik can kiss goodbye to any job in the aviation industry. Always seemed a bit suspect that he couldn’t last more than 2 years in any role…imagine a 2 year contract does that trick to not get kicked out, but now kicked out to the curb.

  6. The big question is whether @Etihad or the Etihad CEO will take action because of this action.

  7. Sadly Etihad has condoned the actions of such fraudulent people and dismissed the previous hard working management based on the inputs of a fraudster. Wont be surprising though if they do not take any action. Clearly the fraud exists in the top tiers!!! @Arik De… Karma!

  8. Did he feel so threatened by his peers that he felt he had to disparage them, their teams and their airlines? Such a weird thing to do. I get the bigging yourself up, but the crass disrespect against others in the industry is just appalling. He should issue a public apology. What a child.

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