CAPA names Asia-Pacific’s top aviation leaders

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The CAPA Asia-Pacific Awards for Excellence are intended to recognise airlines, airports, executives and the wider aviation industry for their strategic leadership and success over the last 12 months, and for helping to propel the whole industry forward. (PHOTO: CAPA)
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China Southern Airlines, SpiceJet, VietJet and Vistara have been recognised among Asia’s top airlines and leaders at CAPA’s 16th annual Asia-Pacific Aviation Awards for Excellence in Singapore. CAPA first established the awards in 2003, to recognise successful airlines and airports within the Asia-Pacific region. CAPA – Centre for Aviation (CAPA), Chairman Emeritus, Peter Harbison said: “The CAPA Asia-Pacific Awards for Excellence are intended to recognise airlines, airports, executives and the wider aviation industry for their strategic leadership and success over the last 12 months, and for helping to propel the whole industry forward.”

Airline Winners: The four winners in the airline category present airlines that have shown the greatest strategic impact on the development of the airline industry within their class, and have established themselves as leaders, providing a benchmark for others to follow.

Airline of the Year: China Southern Airlines. This is awarded 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 Southern Airlines was selected for its ability to weather short term challenges while remaining focused on its long term growth plan. Despite regional geopolitical issues affecting demand in 2019, China Southern keeps growing its operating profit, and its passenger levels remain strong, growing nearly 9 percent through the third quarter of 2019. The airline has also recognised that traditional alliance structures are becoming less relevant in a quickly changing global aviation landscape. By forging an independent path after leaving the SkyTeam, China Southern will maintain its solid leadership in the region while ensuring it has the network depth and breadth to continue to grow profitably.

Airline Executive of the Year: SpiceJet India Chairman and Managing Director, Ajay Singh: This is awarded to the airline 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. SpiceJet, Chairman and Managing Director, Ajay Singh was selected for his significant and innovative contributions to Indian aviation as a pioneer of the country’s LCC sector. India’s third-largest airline overall by fleet and 2019 seat count, SpiceJet is the second largest LCC and second largest domestic airline. Annual passenger numbers and revenues grew almost five times from 2008 to 2018. Its 2019 seat count is up by 28 percent. Its business is primarily domestic, but its international network has grown over the current decade to embrace 10 destinations, the most recent being Riyadh, launched in August 2019. SpiceJet operates a fleet of 69 Boeing narrowbodies and 32 Bombardier Q400s, as India’s only operator of this turboprop family. In September 2018, it launched SpiceXpress, its air cargo division operating dedicated freighters. SpiceJet reported three successive years of net profit between FY2016 and FY2018 in the notoriously competitive Indian market where few airlines have achieved positive results in recent years. Indeed, these results followed successive losses that had taken SpiceJet to the brink of collapse during a period when Singh was not leading the airline. SpiceJet slipped into loss in the year to Mar-2019 as a result of higher fuel costs and INR depreciation, but returned to profit with its best ever quarterly result in the first quarter of FY2020, in spite of the grounding of 13 Boeing 737MAX-8s and delays to further deliveries. It compensated for the MAX groundings with an increase in utilisation for its existing Boeing and Q400 aircraft while also adding 32 aircraft to the fleet between Apr-2019 and Jun-2019 in order to take advantage of the gap left by Jet Airways. This demonstrated the robustness of its business model and operational skills.

Low-Cost Airline of the Year: VietJet. This is awarded to the low-cost or hybrid airline that has been the biggest standout strategically, has established itself as a leader, has been most innovative and provided a benchmark for others to follow. VietJet was selected for its successful growth during the last few years, building up a 44 percent market share in Vietnam’s domestic market, which is a highly attractive position given Vietnam’s favourable economic prospects and fast-growing market. VietJet’s international growth has also been impressive as the company opened nine new international routes during the first half of 2019. The airline now serves 78 international routes and 42 domestic routes, and its network spans numerous countries including some of the fastest growing aviation markets – China, Indonesia, and soon, India. The company continues to evolve the low-cost model, taking innovative steps to bolster its ancillary revenue, including its recent partnership with ridesharing app Grab, which allows the company to expand its presence through the travel chain and broaden its brand awareness. VietJet has one of the lowest unit costs worldwide while also building a market capitalisation of US$3 billion, providing a solid foundation for a promising future as it becomes one of the world’s leading low cost airlines.

Regional Airline of the Year: Vistara. This is awarded 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. (Note that this award is not limited to operators of regional aircraft; it is intended to recognise smaller airlines – fewer than 10 million annual passengers – that either do not operate any long haul services, or only operate limited long haul services.) Vistara was selected for its strong consistent growth, even before the collapse of Jet Airways in April 2019. Launched in 2015 and 51 percent owned by Indian industrial giant Tata Sons and 49 percent owned by Singapore Airlines, Vistara’s traffic grew by 30 percent in 2018 to more than 5 million passengers and its seat count is up by 40 percent in 2019. In a highly competitive domestic market dominated by LCCs, this was a substantial achievement. Vistara currently operates 40 domestic routes, serving 30 cities in India. It has recently added international routes with the launch of Mumbai-Dubai, Delhi-Bangkok and both Mumbai and Delhi to Singapore in August 2019 and Mumbai-Colombo in November 2019.

Airport Winners: The three winners in the airport category have demonstrated the utmost strategic leadership across the Asia Pacific region and taken significant steps to progress the aviation industry in the last 12 months.

capa-names-asia-pacifics-top-aviation-leadersLarge Airport of the Year: Hong Kong International Airport. This is awarded to the airport with over 30 million annual passengers 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. Hong Kong International Airport was selected for its role in managing the difficult process of agreeing its third runway project with multiple parties and the accompanying Terminal 1 expansion and improvement project. This will ensure that three years before the runway is completed, terminal capacity will be more than sufficient to handle the anticipated increase in passengers. It was also selected for its resilience in dealing with the disruption caused during the political protests of 2019 and for managing to maintain consistent services to the passengers using it during that disruption, thus offering support to Hong Kong’s beleaguered international commercial and tourism sectors.

Medium Airport of the Year: Brisbane Airport. This is awarded to the airport with 10 to 30 million annual passengers 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. Brisbane Airport was selected for boosting the Asia market, by increasing the number of weekly frequencies by 50 to 137 in the period July 2016 to July 2019, a critical enhancement for Queensland and its tourism industry, which accounts for 4 percent of Queensland’s GDP. China has become the largest source market for Queensland while Japan is the third largest source market. Together with Queensland and Brisbane tourism and economic development bodies, Brisbane has become a model for airport business development. Secondly, for its innovative development of non-aeronautical businesses, and attendant revenues. For example, the BNE Auto Mall, of which stage one will open by 2021. It is a 300 million Australian dollar automotive precinct which will include a performance track, car dealerships, manufacturers and retail amenities and which will also service and sit alongside exhibition and conference facilities, hotels and driver training schools, which are all located next to the Brisbane Airport international terminal. And finally, for being one of the leading airports in the world for on-time performance.

Regional/Small Airport of the Year: Phnom Penh International Airport. This is awarded 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. (Note that this award is not limited to airports without any long haul or intercontinental services; it is intended to recognise smaller airports – fewer than 10 million annual passengers – that rely primarily on short haul routes.) Phnom Penh International Airport was selected for adopting an innovative strategy that has led to sustained passenger growth in excess of 25 percent over two years (2017/18) and of 15 percent in Q1-Q3 of 2019 while the regional leader, Thailand’s Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, has languished in the 3 percent to 10 percent category. For (together with the other airports in the group), contributing to up to 17 percent of the country’s total GDP, sustaining more than 1.7 million jobs, representing 20 percent of the working population. And for the very rapid completion of works to extend the runway to 3,000 metres, thereby expanding the potential for new long haul services.

Innovation Winner

capa-names-asia-pacifics-top-aviation-leadersInnovation of the Year: Singapore Airlines. This award recognises the airline, airport or supplier responsible for the most powerful innovation in the industry over the past year. The innovation could be customer-facing, B2B, efficiency-related or a new marketing product – and must be a new standout and established the company as a market leader in the product or process. Singapore Airlines (SIA) was selected for its ULR product. Singapore Airlines has invested heavily in ensuring the success of its resumed nonstop flights to the US. SIA worked very closely with Airbus to ensure its A350-900ULRs would be available and fit for purpose to offer travellers the best possible service available. SIA was the first airline in the world to operate the A350-900ULR, configured in a two-class layout, with 67 Business Class seats and 94 Premium Economy Class seats. The innovative strategy involved an entirely new service and product including new meals from Canyon Ranch specially created for ultra-long haul nonstop US flights. Wellness formed an important part of the strategy with SIA partnering with Canyon Ranch, the world’s premiere integrative wellness brand, designed to re-invent ultra-long-haul travel with a focus on wellness cuisines, rest and relaxation, and general well-being on the world’s longest flights.

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