I very much enjoyed the Airline Business 10th Airline Strategy Awards last month. Perhaps we are all rather cynical about awards ceremonies these days but this was definitively the one to win – just look at who has won it in the past! The panel is always composed of senior and respected figures from the air transport community and the judging process is rigorous. (And it is always a good night out too!)
The reason for this blog is that these Awards are also a good indicator of the changing nature of the air transport Industry. So looking back over the last decade you can see the rise of the Alliances, then the low-cost Carriers and the Hybrids.
The choices this year were good ones. I liked the Environment Award for British Airways, richly deserved by Jonathon Counsell, and Qantas were a worthy winner of the IT Award for their RFID “Q” bag tags.
I want, though, to highlight two awards which show in particular how the airline business has changed in the last 10 years:
First, the Award for Leadership which went to Mr Kong Dong, the Chairman of Air China. As the citation said, “Under Kong, Air China has demonstrated that a large airline can respond nimbly to rapidly changing market conditions. It is positioned for both near-term and long-term growth and, just like its country, becoming a global force”.
Secondly, the Airline Business Award “for the outstanding contribution over the last 10 years”, which was given to Tim Clark, President of Emirates.
This award was given by the last 3 editors of Airline Business (above) and, as the citation says, “A decade ago when the first Airline Business Awards took place, Emirates was operating just 40 aircraft and carrying 7 million passengers. That fleet now numbers more than 150, and by its last financial year to 31 March, passenger numbers had ballooned to a whopping 31.4 million”.
These two awards very clearly illustrate the shift in the aero-political centre of gravity to the Gulf and to China, mirroring the geo-political shift that has taken place over the last 10 years.
SITA’s members recently decided to amend our Articles of Association to improve our Governance, creating a new SITA Council to look after Members’ interests and a single SITA Board (replacing the old two-tier structure) to supervise the operation and management of SITA.
Again, the membership of these two governing bodies shows the global nature of air transport, with Council members coming from all regions in the world, but absolutely representing the areas of new growth as well as the traditional large carriers with Europe (9), Asia (11), Africa (3), North America (4), South America (2) and Australasia (1). So as well as Delta, American and United; BA, Air France and Lufthansa: we have Air India, Air China and ANA; Ethiopian, Turkish and TAM on the new SITA Members Council, reflecting their use of SITA products and services.
This is a very international Council that represent airlines large and small, in alliances and not in them, from all parts of the world, showing just how the airline business is growing and changing.
We are truly a global industry now, not just an industry that operates globally.