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Ethiopian Airlines, IndiGo, Qantas, Athens, Budapest, Vancouver, IBS receive awards at CAPA dinner

Ethiopian Airlines, IndiGo and Qantas Airways received the top airline awards at the 2015 CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence, held on 7-Oct-2015 in Helsinki as part of CAPA’s 2015 World Aviation Summit. Athens, Budapest and Vancouver were winners in the airport categories, picking up awards at a gala dinner hosted by Travelport.

Now in its thirteenth year, CAPA’s Aviation Awards for Excellence are intended to reward airlines and airports that are not only successful but have also provided industry leadership in an always changing environment. At a time of industry upheaval, our winners are adopting strategies that offer new directions for others to take up.

Award candidates were independently researched and short-listed by a team analysts at CAPA - Centre for Aviation and partners at Heidrick & Struggles. Winners were then selected by an independent global panel of eight judges.

The judges for the 2015 awards included: Dave Barger, Jon Boyle, Rigas Doganis, Peter Harbison, Andrew Herdman, Barry Humphreys, Mike Szucs and Professor Nawal Taneja. Brendan Sobie from CAPA and Con Korfiatis from Heidrick & Struggles were the co-moderators.

Ethiopian Airlines was named the CAPA Airline of the Year. This award is given to the airline that has been the biggest standout strategically during the year, has had the greatest impact on the development of the airline industry, established itself as a leader, and provided a benchmark for others to follow.

Ethiopian CEO Tewolde GebreMariam accepted the award from CAPA Executive Chairman Peter Harbison.

Ethiopian was selected by the judging panel for its ability to establish pan-African operations and thrive in an increasingly important emerging market where most airlines have struggled. Ethiopian has been a clear standout and emerged as the leader in Africa with a pioneering strategy.

“Ethiopian has doubled in size since the beginning of the decade while most other major African carriers have grown only slightly or not at all, successfully expanding its hub operation” said Mr Harbison. “It has been consistently profitable over this period while most of its competitors in Africa have struggled financially in recent years.”

CAPA noted that Ethiopian has rapidly expanded its network in Africa, which now consists of a leading 45 destinations. Its position in Africa has been further strengthened by pursuing joint ventures and investments in other African carriers.

Ethiopian has also pursued rapid and successful expansion in Asia, where it now has 11 destinations, positioning Addis Ababa as the leading hub for the growing Asia-Africa market despite intensifying competition for such traffic from the Gulf carriers/hubs. Several new partnerships have been forged including with ANA, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines, leveraging Ethiopian’s membership in Star.

IndiGo was named the CAPA Low Cost Airline of the Year. This award is given to the low cost airline that has been the biggest standout strategically, established itself as a leader, been most innovative, and provided a benchmark for others to follow.

IndiGo president Aditya Ghosh accepted the award from Mr Harbison.

IndiGo was selected by the judging panel to for its ability to thrive in an extremely challenging market. The judges were particularly impressed by the execution of IndiGo’s executive team.

“In less than 10 years IndiGo has grown to become India's largest domestic airline with a market share of close to 40%,” Mr Harbison said. “Despite operating in a very challenging market, IndiGo has consistently reported profits for each of the last seven years, including a record profit in FY2015. Over the same period India's airlines combined have lost in excess of USD10 billion.”

CAPA noted that IndiGo is now in the final stages of preparing for an historic initial public offering which is expected to value the airline at about USD4 billion. IndiGo has established a very positive brand reputation for the quality of its service, clean aircraft, innovative F&B packaging and its efficient operating model with the lowest cancellation rate and best on-time performance among the main Indian carriers. IndiGo’s on-time performance and schedule integrity has been an industry benchmark in India since it launched.

Over the last year IndiGo has maintained stability in a challenging market while all its main competitors have faced a crisis. IndiGo is now attracting significant interest from potential foreign airline investors and global alliances.

Qantas Airways was named the CAPA Airline Turnaround of the Year. This award is given to the airline that has had the most impressive turnaround while establishing an innovative strategic direction for their business and the industry.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was also named the CAPA Airline Chief Executive of the Year. This award is given to the executive who has had the greatest individual influence on the aviation industry, demonstrating outstanding strategic thinking and innovative direction for the growth of their business and the industry.

Mr Joyce accepted the Airline Chief Executive of the Year award from Mr Harbison and the airline Turnaround of the Year award from Travelport Global Head of Product and Marketing Ian Heywood.

Qantas and Mr Joyce were chosen by the judging panel for the group’s remarkable turnaround. The judges were particularly impressed by the massive restructuring programme led by Mr Joyce and his ability to tackle complex industrial relations challenges.

“What Qantas has achieved under Mr Joyce’s leadership is one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of the aviation industry,” Mr Harbison said. “The restructuring is particularly noteworthy as it was intelligently implemented without the benefit of Chapter 11 style bankruptcy protections.”

CAPA noted that Qantas turned a pre-tax profit of almost AUD1 billion in the fiscal year ending Jun-2015, surpassing market expectations and representing a turnaround of AUD1.6 billion compared to the prior year. All operating segments are now profitable, including the international division which has returned to an operating profit after several years of losses – and is now expanding again.

The turnaround follows a period of significant losses and restructuring initiatives which have proven to be successful despite being controversial internally, publicly and politically. The transformation has been driven primarily by process related cost-cutting initiatives and strategic adjustments.

CAPA highlighted Mr Joyce's strong will in taking very hard decisions – grounding the airline during a battle with three key unions over demands on conditions, large redundancies and capacity discipline, especially in the domestic market – contributed to the turnaround. Mr Joyce also has driven new partnerships, including the bold decision to tie up with Emirates and more recently expand its partnerships with China Eastern and American. Qantas meanwhile has continued to invest in its group of airlines and its product with significant new product investment in business class, lounges and most recently a 787-9 order for Qantas International.

Athens Airport CEO Yiannis Paraschis was named the CAPA Airport Chief Executive of the Year. A new category established for 2015, this award is given to the airport executive who has demonstrated outstanding strategic thinking and innovative direction for the growth of their business and the industry.

Mr Paraschis accepted the award from Mr Harbison.

The judging panel selected Mr Paraschis for his pioneering work at Athens Airport and his ability to thrive in an extremely difficult environment.

Athens has continued to record consistent growth in passenger numbers despite the debt crisis,” Mr Harbison said. “Athens’ initiative under Mr Paraschis to work with airlines to reduce domestic fares by offering a reduction in charges is a hallmark example of strategic thinking and innovation. The initiative succeeded at stimulating domestic travel despite challenging market conditions.”

CAPA noted that passenger growth at Athens was 21% in 2014 and has again exceeded 20% so far this year, a remarkable achievement given the economic and political situation in Greece.

Mr Paraschis has been CEO of Athens since 2007, leading and expanding the airport through an extremely challenging period. Mr Paraschis has also been active as a board member of ACI World, serving as vice-chairman from 2009 to 2011 and chairman from 2011 to 2013.

CAPA also noted that Athens Airport has received a high rating in the ACI Airport Carbon Accreditation programme and was recently named one of the world’s most efficient airports by the ATRS annual benchmarking study.

Budapest Airport was named CAPA Airport of the Year. This award is given to the airport that has been the biggest standout strategically, established itself as a leader and done the most to advance the progress of the aviation industry.

Budapest Airport CEO Jost Lammers accepted the award from Mr Harbison.

The judging panel selected Budapest for its ability to diversify and resume growth through strategic initiatives that are pioneering for the airport sector.

Budapest proved its mettle following the demise of national carrier Malev in 2012, which resulted in the loss of 33% of its passenger traffic and 40% of its revenues,” Mr Harbison said. “It has since successfully battled to attract a broad range of carriers to replace Malev and is now growing rapidly, including 8% growth in 2014 and about 13% growth so far in 2015.”

CAPA noted that the record numbers have helped the balance sheet of Budapest Airport, indicating solid financial grounds for accelerating the next phase of development plans which includes an on-site hotel, airport city development project, cargo base, new pier and a new check in hall within the mid-term range. Stakeholder relations, especially with all ministries within the Government of Hungary, are also at an all-time high. 

Budapest Airport is forecast to reach the 10 million passenger landmark in 2015. It has welcomed four new airlines and 18 new routes over the last 12 months, including four new long-haul routes.

Vancouver Airport Authority won the Airport Product Innovation of the Year for BorderXpress. A new category for 2015, this award is given to the airport or IT supplier responsible for the most powerful information technology innovation in the airport sector.

Vancouver Airport Authority CEO Craig Richmond accepted the award from Mr Harbison.

The judging panel selected Vancouver Airport for being extremely innovative and taking the strategic initiative to develop a product that has significantly impacted the airport sector.

“Vancouver Airport has been a pioneer with its development of BorderXpress Automated Passport Control Kiosks, which has reduced waiting times by over 50%,” Mr Harbison said.

CAPA noted that BorderXpress is now being used in about 25 airports across Canada, US and Caribbean and in the Vancouver seaport. Since the beginning of 2014 the kiosks have been successfully introduced at 20 additional airports, improving the efficiency of immigration process and passenger experiences. With the kiosks four times more travellers can be processed per border officer.

IBS won the Airline Product Innovation of the Year for iCargo. A new category for 2015, this award is given to the airline or IT supplier responsible for the most powerful information technology innovation in the airline sector.



IBS Group CEO Rajiv Shah accepted the award from Mr Harbison.

The judging panel selected IBS for its innovative approach to developing an IT solution with collaboration from five major airlines.

CAPA noted that iCargo went live at Lufthansa Cargo in Jun-2015, when the launch customer achieved a seamless cutover to the cargo management IT solution. The new system is now supporting Lufthansa Cargo operations at three hubs and more than 300 global destinations

About CAPA, Heidrick & Struggles and the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence

Established in 1990, CAPA – Centre for Aviation is the leading provider of independent aviation market intelligence, analysis and data services, covering worldwide developments. Heidrick & Struggles is a premier professional services firm providing executive search, culture shaping and leadership consulting services. It has a specialist aviation team which works with airline, airport and the broader aviation industry, clients across the globe.

The CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence have recognised strategic leadership in the aviation industry since 2002. The awards are not driven by customer surveys or sponsorship. They are independently researched by CAPA and Heidrick & Struggles and selected by an independent international panel of judges.

Initially limited to Asia Pacific and the Middle East, CAPA expanded the awards in 2012 to include all regions. This year the Aviation Awards of Excellence will be presented at two gala dinners, one for the global industry and one for Asia-Pacific including the Middle East. The CAPA Asia Pacific Aviation Awards for Excellence will be awarded on 23 November in Singapore as part of the CAPA Asia Aviation Summit.

For more information on the CAPA Asia Aviation Summit and awards dinner click here.

Click here for previous winners of the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence

For more information on the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence including media queries please contact Brendan Sobie, CAPA Chief Analyst and Aviation Awards for Excellence Co-moderator, at bsobie@centreforaviation.com

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