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Air NZ, China Eastern, Malindo, PAL, Spring, BOC’s Martin, Mactan-Cebu win CAPA Asia Pacific awards

China Eastern Airlines, Malindo Air, Philippine Airlines and Spring Airlines scooped the airline awards at the 2016 CAPA Asia Pacific Aviation Awards for Excellence, held on 15-Nov-2016 in Singapore as part of the 2016 CAPA Asia Aviation Summit. BOC Aviation CEO Robert Martin received the executive award, while Mactan-Cebu was the airport winner and Air New Zealand won in the innovation category. Spring Airlines founding CEO and chairwoman Zhang Xiuzhi was recognised with the CAPA Legends Award (CAPA Hall of Fame).

Now in its fourteenth 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.

Initially limited to Asia Pacific and the Middle East, the awards were expanded by CAPA in 2012 to include all regions. This year the Aviation Awards for Excellence were presented at two gala dinners – one for the global industry on 27-Oct-2015, and one for Asia Pacific including the Middle East on 15-Nov-2016.

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

The judges for the 2016 Asia Pacific awards included: Guy Farrow, Peter Harbison, Andrew Herdman, David Huttner, Garry Kingshott, Dermot Mannion, Emirsyah Satar and Andrew Stephen. Brendan Sobie from CAPA and Con Korfiatis from Heidrick & Struggles were the co-moderators.

China Eastern was named the CAPA Asia Pacific 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, has established itself as a leader, and provided a benchmark for others to follow.

China Eastern EVP Li Yangmin accepted the award from Travelport Senior Commercial Director Chris Ramming.

China Eastern was selected by the judging panel for its rapid international expansion and successful implementation of a new strategy which includes a multi-brand model and equity partnership with Delta Air Lines. “China Eastern has grown rapidly and evolved strategically, adopting a new brand, forging a ground-breaking partnership with Delta and embracing the multi brand model”, said CAPA – Centre for Aviation Executive Chairman Peter Harbison. “China Eastern has been transformed and has emerged as a leader strategically in the key Chinese market.”

CAPA noted that the China Eastern subsidiary China United had been converted into an LCC and grown rapidly. The parent airline has itself expanded rapidly, with several new international destinations over the last year. Its international passenger traffic was up 27% in 2015.

China Eastern has also implemented a new strategic partnership with China Eastern and expanded its cooperation with Air France-KLM. The group has been consistently profitable since 2010.

Spring Airlines was named the CAPA Asia Pacific Low Cost Airline of the Year.  

This award is given to the low cost airline that has been the biggest standout strategically, has established itself as a leader, has been the most innovative, and provided a benchmark for others to follow.

Spring Airlines President Stephen Wang accepted the award from Mr Harbison.

Spring was selected for its recording-breaking initial public offering and ability to grow steadily – and profitability – in a challenging market. "Spring became China’s first LCC in 2005 and has since grown steadily, despite a challenging regulatory and political environment”, Mr Harbison said. “What Spring has been able to accomplish as a private company in China is remarkable and its success has led to a more supportive LCC policy from the once reluctant Chinese government.”  

CAPA noted that Spring had been a pioneer in China and had also now launched a joint venture in Japan. Spring has been consistently profitable over the last several years and currently operates over 60 aircraft in China across a network of more than 80 destinations, including 22 international destinations. In late 2015 Spring became the launch operator of the 186-seat A320 and ordered 60 A320neos.

Malindo Air was named the CAPA Asia Pacific Regional Airline of the Year.

This award is given to the regional airline that has been the biggest standout strategically, has established itself as a leader, and demonstrated innovation in the regional aviation sector. This award is intended to recognise smaller airlines or airline groups with annual passenger traffic of less than 10 million.

Malindo CEO Chandran Rama Muthy accepted the award from Mr Harbison.

Malindo was selected for adjusting its strategy to focus on network traffic and embracing the full service model. “Over the last year Malindo has taken advantage of opportunities in the Malaysian market created by the restructuring of Malaysia Airlines and positioned itself as a full service network airline”, Mr Harbison said. “With rapid international expansion Malindo has significantly raised the profile of the Lion Group, which previously was almost entirely domestic focused. Malindo has become a rare example of a new full service airline growing rapidly and shaking up the marketplace.”

CAPA noted that transit traffic now accounts for nearly 40% of Malindo’s traffic at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), a remarkable figure for an airline that is only three years old. Malindo passenger traffic grew by 50% in 2015 and is on track to achieve similar growth in 2016, following the delivery of an astonishing 11 aircraft over the last six months.

CAPA also noted that Malindo had moved this year from KLIA2 to the main terminal and had forged partnerships with several foreign airlines, including Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines. Malindo has also pursued rapid network expansion and now has 27 international destinations – 14 of which have been launched over the last 13 months.

Philippine Airlines was named the CAPA Asia Pacific 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 its business and the industry.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) CEO and chairman Dr Lucio Tan and PAL president & COO Jaime Bautista received the award from Mr Harbison.

PAL was selected for its return to profitability and strong financial performance over the last two years, ending a string of losses. PAL has launched a remarkable 15 destinations outside Asia over the last three years. Usually such ambitious expansion has a negative impact on financials but for PAL it has been able to complete an ambitious expansion phase while returning to profitability”, Mr Harbison said. “Since Lucio Tan took back control of PAL two years ago, the airline has been remarkably successful and significantly improved its long-term position and outlook.”

PAL has invested in fleet renewal and new in-flight products, and has implemented several other service enhancements. CAPA noted that PAL had experienced improvements in its expanded international operation and is now planning a new phase of international growth. Domestically PAL has resumed expansion under a new strategy for the regional subsidiary PAL Express, which is also profitable again now.

BOC Aviation CEO Robert Martin was named the CAPA Asia Pacific 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 Martin accepted the award from Mr Harbison.

Mr Martin was selected for leading BOC Aviation through a successful expansion programme which culminated in its public listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on 1 Jun-2016. “Under Robert Martin, BOC Aviation has emerged as one of the world’s largest and most successful leasing companies”, Mr Harbison said. “BOC’s portfolio has grown over the remarkable nearly 20-year tenure of Robert Martin from 10 aircraft to more than 270 aircraft, and BOC now has another 200-plus aircraft on order. Perhaps even more impressively Robert Martin has been a key player in the emergence of Singapore as an aircraft leasing and financing hub.”

CAPA noted that BOC Aviation’s IPO was a major accomplishment, given the company’s highly regulated parent company Bank of China, requiring several years of work. BOC Aviation raised over USD1 billion from the listing, which will be used to fund further expansion.

Mr Martin first joined BOC Aviation, then known as Singapore Airline Leasing Enterprise (SALE), in 1998. Mr Martin is now one of the longest-serving CEOs of the same company in the aircraft leasing industry. This is the first time a non-airline CEO has been the recipient of the CAPA executive of the year award – a testament to Mr Martin’s accomplishments in the aircraft leasing sector and the wider aviation industry.

Mactan-Cebu Airport in the Philippines was named CAPA Asia Pacific Regional Airport of the Year.

This award is given to the regional airport that has been the biggest standout strategically, has established itself as a leader, and done the most to advance the progress of the aviation industry. This award is intended to recognise smaller airports with annual passenger traffic of less than 10 million.

GMCAC President Louie Ferrer and GMAC CEO Advisor Andrew Harrison received the award from Mr Harbison.

The judging panel selected Mactan-Cebu for its rapid growth since a successful privatisation in late 2014. The new owners, GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC), have secured several new international routes and have invested in a new terminal which will open in 2018, boosting the airport’s capacity by 12.5 million passengers per annum.

“Mactan-Cebu has quickly proven to be a successful airport privatisation project, silencing sceptics and winning praise from airlines”, Mr Harbison said. “Mactan-Cebu has emerged as a leader among small to medium sized airports while GMCAC’s strategy of positioning Cebu as an alternative hub to Manila for domestic to international connections is starting to pay dividends.”

CAPA noted that Mactan-Cebu had become one of the fastest-growing airports in Asia, recording 14% growth in 2015 to 7.8 million passengers. International growth has been particularly fast, with a 20% rise in 2015 and a 19% increase through the first nine months of 2016.

In Mar-2016 Mactan-Cebu attracted its first long haul routes with Los Angeles (launched by Philippine Airlines) and Dubai (launched by Emirates). EVA Air and Xiamen Airlines have also launched services to Cebu this year, giving the airport 15 foreign airlines. Meanwhile Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have both pursued rapid domestic growth at Mactan-Cebu, with several new routes and additional capacity aimed at bolstering connectivity.

Air New Zealand won the CAPA Asia Pacific Innovation of the Year award for its Airband.

This award is given to the airline, airport or supplier responsible for the most powerful innovation in the industry over the past 12 months.

Air New Zealand Senior Manager Customer Experience Nikki Goodman received the award from Mr Harbison.

The judges selected Airband for addressing challenges related to unaccompanied minors – a real-life issue that airlines throughout the world have struggled with for years. The Airband is a wristband issued to children who are travelling alone, giving parents and guardians the opportunity to follow each step of their young one’s journey from wherever they are in the world. It was developed in-house at Air New Zealand and has been in use for just over a year, since Oct-2015.

The first product of its kind in the airline industry, Airband is embedded with a near-field communication (NFC) chip which prompts text alerts when Air New Zealand crew members scan the wristband with a mobile device at four key stages during a child’s journey. CAPA noted that Airband is one of several technological innovations introduced by Air New Zealand in recent years. “Air New Zealand has once again come up with an impactful and pioneering new invention, cementing its position as a leader in the strategic innovation space”, Mr Harbison said.

Spring Airlines founder and chairwoman Zhang Xiuzhi received the CAPA Legend Award.

The Legend award is an occasional award given to individuals who have stood out as making a substantial long-term difference to the industry in which they work. They display rare talent and people skills, so that not only do they change the external environment, they invariably also generate substantially positive corporate improvements.

Spring Airlines VP Jonathan Hutt accepted the award on behalf of Ms Zhang.

Ms Zhang co-founded Spring and served as CEO from its establishment in 2004 until earlier this year. “Under Ms Zhang Spring expanded rapidly and profitably, culminating in a highly successful IPO in 2015”, Mr Harbison said. “Spring was able to overcome local challenges and regulatory constraints to emerge as North Asia’s largest LCC. “

CAPA noted that as China’s first LCC Spring had been a pioneer. It also became the first Chinese LCC with an overseas JV when it launched Spring Japan in 2014.

During her 12-year tenure as CEO Ms Zhang has been instrumental in helping Spring develop a strong market presence in China’s booming aviation sector, catering not only to China’s first-time flyer market but also offering a new range of travel products targeting the increasingly more sophisticated and price-conscious business segment. In 2010 Ms Zhang worked to ensure that Spring became the first private airline to be granted a licence to fly internationally by the Civil Aviation Authority of China. A staunch advocate of the low-cost aviation model, Ms. Zhang has defied the critics and illustrated that not only could the LCC model work in China – it could thrive.

"In this way, Ms Zhang has truly secured a place as a national treasure and a pioneer in the evolution of China's increasingly important aviation industry. By creating, with Spring, a role model for others to follow, her legacy will endure", said Mr Harbison.

CAPA does not present a Legend Award every year, and only occasionally decides an executive’s career accomplishments merit induction into the CAPA Hall of Fame. Ms Zhang becomes only the eleventh inductee into the CAPA Hall of Fame, joining Seri Bashir Ahmad, Dr Cheong Choong Kong, Sir Tim Clark, Brett Godfrey, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Sir Maurice Flanagan, Rob Fyfe, Rusdi Kirana, CW Lee and Ray Webster.

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

Established in 1990, CAPA – Centre for Aviation is the leading provider of independent aviation market intelligence (publishing 500 stories every working day), 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 and airport clients, and the broader aviation industry, 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, the awards were expanded by CAPA in 2012 to include all regions. This year the Aviation Awards of Excellence were presented at two gala dinners – one for the global industry in Amsterdam and one for Asia Pacific in Singapore.

For more information on the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence and CAPA Asia Pacific 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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