Congratulations to all our 2016 winners - please click below to see the full citations
Michael O'Leary, Chief executive, Ryanair
Few chief executives have been quite as identifiable with their airline as Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.
His “take it or leave it” attitude embodied the Irish budget carrier’s carrot and stick approach to customer service – a heady mix of attractive low fares and punitive charges which fuelled the profitable transformation of a small Irish regional carrier into a pan-European airline handling over 100 million passengers a year.
David Neeleman, Chief executive, Azul
While Brazil’s carriers struggled under an economic recession and political instability, David Neeleman’s Azul was busy attracting investors. The rapidly growing carrier now boasts China’s HNA Group and US legacy carrier United Airlines among its shareholders. The investments have not just been a one-way street. Neeleman, through his partly-owned Atlantic Gateway, has also acquired a stake in TAP Portugal.
The flurry of interest in Azul from foreign carriers is a vote of confidence in the business model of Brazil’s third largest carrier, which is barely eight years old.
Enrique Beltranena, Chief Executive, Volaris
Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris is so serious about keeping costs in line that chief executive Enrique Beltranena jokingly refers to his chief financial officer’s internal cost meetings as the “inquisition committee”.
“He [CFO Fernando Suarez] sits down with every director and talks about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to their performance in terms of expenses,” Beltranena tells Flight Airline Business.
Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic
Equity investments are the backbone of some of Delta Air Lines’ strongest global partnerships, from Aeromexico in Mexico to Gol in Brazil.
Nowhere is the success of the equity partnership model more evident than in Delta’s 49% stake in, and immunised joint venture with, Virgin Atlantic.
When JetBlue Airways introduced a US transcontinental premium product – dubbed Mint – in mid- 2014, the airline industry looked askance at the carrier. What were lie-flat seats doing on the aircraft of an airline that calls itself low-cost?
“We were certainly nervous,” JetBlue’s vice-president of marketing Jamie Perry tells Flight Airline Business. Having a premium product on board was a “big philosophical shift” for the carrier, he says.
If imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery, then Emirates is being flattered to bits by its neighbours in the Gulf – and carriers further afield – bent on trying to emulate the Dubai-based airline’s network strategy.
While there is no doubt that Dubai is favourably positioned in geographical terms, Emirates has demonstrated that success is less a matter of what you have than what you do with it.
Tony Tyler, Director general and chief executive, IATA
When Tony Tyler hands the IATA reins over to Alexandre de Juniac on 1 September, he will have served the global airline association as chief executive and director general for five years. His immediate priority on joining was to quickly steady the IATA ship before setting course to make the association a more inclusive organisation and a better business partner.
“The thing I hope I’ve changed in IATA is that we’re seen as much better partners now and therefore more effective,” says Tyler. “When I joined, I think people respected IATA but they didn’t always enjoy working with IATA.”