IAG’s Willie Walsh, Etihad Airways and flydubai receive top CAPA World Awards


Etihad Airways has been named the CAPA Airline of the Year for 2014 at the 12th annual CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence in Antwerp, at a gala industry function hosted by Travelport.

The CAPA Airline of the Year is awarded to the carrier that has had the greatest impact on the development of the airline industry, established itself as a leader, and the benchmark for others to follow.

Peter Harbison, Executive Chairman of CAPA, said: “The efficiency of the aviation industry is strangled by archaic ownership and control rules that prevent cross border mergers and rationalisation of airline offerings. More than any other factor this has effectively confined the industry to drastic financial underperformance. Faced with this roadblock, no single full service airline has done more than Etihad Airways to challenge the status quo with its remarkable strategic partnership model.

“Recognising that organic growth was not likely to generate the rapid global expansion it needed, Etihad Airways has relied on an extensive network of codeshares and most notable, established its own ‘equity alliance’, cemented by minority holdings in airlines around the world. But the strategy is more than just establishing a range of equity relationships to cement its alliance – in itself a unique development in global aviation. It has also generated shared benefits for each of its partners – such as mutual traffic feed and branding, joint purchasing and common frequent flyer programs and more – that have stimulated additional business, not only for Etihad Airways.

“In a new world of aviation partnerships, Etihad Airways is at the strategic vanguard of equity relationships, as a growing number of airlines – notably in Asia – line up to emulate the success of this truly original model,” Mr Harbison said.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are delighted to be named Airline of the Year at the 2014 CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence. It is not only a great honour but also a powerful endorsement of the Etihad Airways business model. The four-pillars of our strategy – organic expansion, codeshare partnerships, minority investments in other airlines and deep commercial agreements – are more than a new rule book for global aviation they are the keys to a long and sustainable future for the airline and its partners.”

The CAPA Aviation Executive of the Year is awarded 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 the business and the industry. The CAPA Aviation Executive of the Year for 2014 has been awarded to Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group.

“Willie Walsh’s vision and execution of IAG’s strategic agenda has positioned the group well for the achievement of margins beyond the reach of many rival airline groups. Willie has been exceptionally clear and focused with what he has been trying to achieve at the IAG carriers and has been consistently driving transformation ahead of his rivals. This has allowed IAG to recommence growing, as its new competitive profile generates business.

“His past successes have included addressing labour issues at British Airways and guiding Iberia's turnaround. These successes have bred confidence in the group’s ability to achieve its stated objectives,” said Mr Harbison.

The CAPA Low Cost Airline of the Year for 2014 is awarded to flydubai for being the world’s most innovative and influential LCC. “With a fleet of some 40 737s, flydubai recently became the Middle East’s largest LCC and has laid out an aggressive long-term plan to more than quadruple in size. It has successfully built a presence in smaller markets previously not served to Dubai. flydubai has established exceptional levels of staff productivity, even by LCC standards, and built solid ancillary revenue streams that have flowed into rising levels of profitability. A successful hybrid product strategy has also boosted yields. The outlook for 2015 and beyond is very bright,” said Mr Harbison.

The CAPA Awards for Excellence in the Airports category are divided into two sections:
1. Airports handling less than 25 million ppa;
2. Airports handling over 25 million ppa.

A number of different criteria were used in the selection process. Passenger and freight volume gains play a large part of course, but operational improvements, investment, resilience, integration with other transport modes and environmental awareness were also taken into account. Ultimately, the category winners are those that CAPA’s Analysts and Panel of Judges assess to be the best positioned, strategically across these aspects, for future success.

The winner of the airport of the year in the >25 million ppa category is Madrid Barajas Airport.

“During 2014 passenger traffic and cargo volume at Madrid have both grown quite strongly, to two year highs, and even exceeding the average for AENA's airports in total. This has been brought about partly by the renegotiation on charges, and active marketing of the airport’s existing short haul airlines, long haul airlines, and newcomers like Norwegian which has established a base there. This resurgence has taken place despite lingering concerns about the impact of the partial privatisation of AENA Aeropuertos, whose largest asset is Madrid Airport – when it will take place and how it will affect the long established culture of airport operations in Spain. That is quite an achievement”, said Mr Harbison.

Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen International Airport is the winner of the Airport of the Year in the <25 million ppa category.

“Sabiha Gökçen International Airport has become a success story in a city and country where success stories in the aviation business have become the norm. Sabiha Gökçen has established itself as a genuine rival to Ataturk Airport in the 'Asian' part of Istanbul, attracting new investors, and demonstrating solid and consistent traffic growth throughout the year. It has managed 20-25% growth consistently over 10 years. Sabiha Gökçen’s success has gone hand-in-hand with that of Pegasus Airlines, but it has also attracted Turkish Airlines to set up a second Istanbul hub. An A380-ready second runway that will be completed in 2017, at least a year before ‘Istanbul New Airport’ is a project that throws down a gauntlet to the new airport even before it is completed,” said Mr Harbison.

Click here for previous winners


Established in 1990, CAPA – Centre for Aviation is the leading provider of independent aviation market intelligence, analysis and data services, covering worldwide developments.

CAPA's Aviation Awards for Excellence are intended to reward airlines, airports and suppliers. The RECIPIENTS must not only be successful but have also provided industry leadership in adjusting to a new environment. At a time of industry upheaval, our winners are adopting new directions that offer new PATHS for others to adopt.

The CAPA Awards judging panel includes European (Dr Barry Humphreys, formerly UK CAA and Virgin Atlantic; chairman of BARUK and director of NATS, American (Professor Nawal Taneja, executive consultant to airlines, author of numerous aviation management books) and Asia Pacific (Andrew Herdman, Director General of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines), as well as the regular assessments of the CAPA analysis and executive team, including Peter Harbison, Brendan Sobie, Binit Somaia, Jonathan Wober, Lori Ranson, Will Horton, David Bentley, Elizabeth Pinczewski and Simon Elsegood.

CAPA’s analytical reports and industry research enable senior executives to stay ahead of trends and developments in this fast changing, complex and dynamic industry.

Understanding aviation markets is our great strength and passion. Providing our CAPA Members, clients and partners with an unparalleled level of expertise and insight is our business. We offer an extensive range of information services developed by analysts covering the entire spectrum of commercial aviation.

In addition to our regular research activities we also release annual or bi-annual reports on a number of geographies and industry issues, several of which have been at the vanguard of industry thought on key strategic developments. We don’t just research the industry; we help shape its direction.

Click here for previous winners

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