2011 Winners

Congratulations to all our 2011 winners - please click below to see the full citations

Kong Dong, Chairman, Air China

Air China is on a mission to not only become China’s largest domestic carrier, but it also wants to be mentioned in the same breath as well-known names in the business as Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. Leading the charge is its chairman Kong Dong, under whom China’s flag carrier has not just turned around its fortunes, but also gained a strategic direction that has positioned it for sustained growth. “Kong Dong is putting through a business transformation, has a clear mission and an innovative strategic direction,” commented the judges.


Aditya Ghosh, President, IndiGo

India is both a potential gold mine and mine field for airlines. Demand for air travel has been fuelled by the country’s rapid economic development and an increasingly affluent middle class, resulting in the rapid growth of the airline market after the country liberalised the industry more than five years ago. Yet, a high-cost environment and lack of infrastructure have made this one of the toughest places to make money. Indian carriers have not made it easy, dumping capacity to build up market share and using aircraft that were ordered in the last wave of exuberance almost six years ago. The red ink that drenched the income statements of Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines and Air India, which have tried to combine full-service operations with a low-cost subsidiary, are a testament to that short-sighted philosophy.


Bill Ayer, Chairman and Chief Executive, Alaska Air Group

Roughly nine years ago, Alaska Air Group embarked on a transformation plan and achieved a rare feat in the airline industry – executing it flawlessly. As Alaska’s legacy peers were embarking on their own restructuring schemes – through trips to the bankruptcy court – Alaska made a conscious decision to skirt the bankruptcy process, control its own destiny and create a “2010 plan”, that last year delivered a 10.7% return on invested capital, eclipsing the company’s stated 10% goal.



Merging any two businesses is complicated enough, but when both are airline groups and each has its own complexities about who owns what and how much it is worth, the task of combining them into a single, coherent entity starts to look like a checklist for sending a rocket to the moon. Yet that is what Grupo Synergy and Grupo Taca have done by creating Latin America’s second largest airline group – AviancaTaca.

When they completed this landmark deal in February last year, they combined 13 carriers from 10 countries under one airline holding company that serves more than 100 destinations in 25 nations. Even more impressively, they secured final regulatory approval just four months after they announced the deal.


Air New Zealand

Flying in the face of convention has become the modus operandi for Air New Zealand, which has propelled its brand onto the international stage by using multimedia tools that showcase the carrier’s wit, humour and personality.

Air New Zealand’s safety videos are already the stuff of marketing legend. A 2009 video featuring flightcrew nude except for body painted uniforms was so wildly successful on YouTube that few in the industry could have imagined the carrier would be able to quickly replicate such viral video magic.



When a new technology emerges, airlines must assess whether the benefits of early adoption will outweigh the risks and challenges, as costly errors can be made through hasty implementation.

An inventive change by Qantas to passenger experience using radio-frequency identification (RFID) has shown that it is a carrier capable of swiftly envisaging how best to use the latest technologies to enhance working processes.


British Airways

If you are going to have a licence to grow, you’ve got to get the environmental responsibility piece right,” says Jonathon Counsell, head of environment at British Airways, and that is something the Strategy Awards’ judges believe BA is doing – and then some. “BA is head-and-shoulders better than anyone in the industry,” observed one judge. “They not only talk about what they are going to do, they have an organisation set up,” said another. Although the airline has had an environmental function for two decades, it was former chief executive Willie Walsh who saw in 2008 that the carrier needed to make it a strategic priority. “He really drove it, recognising that it is a serious issue. We are a big emitter [of carbon] and we really need to do the right thing,” explains Counsell.


Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airline

Tim Clark has steered Emirates on its trailblazing expansion over the last decade.

He has been the architect of its strategy to develop Dubai into the world’s premier international mega-hub, and evangelical in his conviction to accumulate an Airbus A380 fleet of eye-watering proportions, to deliver the necessary network connections and capacity.

A decade ago, when the first Airline Strategy Awards took place, Emirates was operating just 40 aircraft and carrying seven 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.