During the last 12 months, pretty torrid ones for the industry at that, Airline Business has interviewed chief executives from across continents, with varying airline models and with a range of challenges and differing financial fortunes.
So as a tumultuous 2009 for the airline industry draws to a close, here's a quick look back at the airline leaders we have featured on the Airline Business cover during the last 12 months and a glimpse into their stories.
JANUARY 2009: Bjorn Kjos, Norwegian
We interviewed Kjos in a snowy Oslo
(shown off in the most stunning cover shoot to grace Airline Business
pages) shortly after the carrier had pounced at Copenhagen to take advantage of the collapse of rival budget carrier Sterling. It has since continued to grow its operation at the Danish capital and across its network, boosting its profitability this year in the process. Read the full interview here
FEBRUARY 2009: Bob Fornaro, Airtran
In February we caught up with Fornaro, a decade into his career at the US low-cost carrier and who succeeded Joe Leonard as chief executive in 2007, and found out how the carrier had adjusted its fleet strategy to meet the dual threat of first the fuel crisis and then the hit to demand that later followed. Read the full interview here
MARCH 2009: Radomir Lasak, Czech Airlines
The day Airline Business arranged to interview Lasak could hardly have been more apt (or I dare say less convenient), as it co-incided with the formal launch of CSA's long-planned privatisation and Lasak had a busy day to say the least! Lasak had successfully turned the fortunes of the SkyTeam carrier around with a view to its sale, only for these hopes to be dashed by the economic crisis which unfolded during 2009. Lasak and members of his board stepped down in October in pushing through a new labour deal and the carrier's privatisation scrapped after the sole remaining firm bid was rejected. Read the full interview here.
APRIL 2009: Girma Wake, Ethiopian Airlines
The continued growth and development of Ethiopian has been one of the success stories of African aviation and we interviewed Wake at the carrier's Addis Ababa
headquarters as the airline continued on its expansion plans. By the end of the year Wake's Ethiopian had added a commitment for Airbus A350
XWBs on top of its existing order for Boeing
787s. For the full interview click here.
MAY 2009: David Cush, Virgin America; Brett Godfrey, V Australia; Steve Ridgway, Virgin Atlantic
Co-inciding with the launch of V Australia's trans-pacific services, the May cover was a real first: all three Virgin airline chief executives and all three of their aircraft lined up in the background. While all three carriers faced their own challenges and markets, it was fascinating to see the interaction between Cush, Godfrey and Ridgway - three chief executives united by the Virgin brand. For the full interview click here.
JUNE 2009: Tony Fernandes, AirAsia
In July we interviewed the boss of an Asian carrier at the other end of the spectrum, the larger than life head of Malaysia budget airline group AirAsia
. It marked Fernandes' second time on the cover, having first featured five years earlier. Since then the budget carrier group has rapidly expanded, including adding low-cost, long-haul operation AirAsia X
to the group. Fernandes later swept into the Paris
Air Show to place an order for ten Airbus
A350XWBs. For the full interview click here
JULY 2009: Cho Yang-ho, Korean Air
Our first Asian airline cover interview of the year took us to Seoul, where Cho was refusing to be sidetracked from Korean's long-term aspirations by the short-term difficulties facing the sector. Throughout the interview he emphasised the SkyTeam carrier's long-term perspective. One of the only carrier's to order A380s during 2009, for good measure it ended the year with an order Boeing 747-8 Intercontinentals. For the full interview click here.
AUGUST 2009: Khalid Abdullah Almolhem, Saudi Arabian Airlines
In August we caught up with Almolhem, boss of the one of the lowest profile operators around. Saudi is in fact the second largest operator, by revenue, in the Middle East and has quietly been setting about transforming the carrier ready to meet its privatisation aspirations. For the full interview click he
SEPTEMBER 2009: Bryan Bedford, Republic Airways
Another of our opportune moments to interview a chief executive, this time coming in the midst of news that Southwest Airlines
was to enter the bidding for US carrier Frontier Airways. Republic had already acquired Midwest and would later win the bidding for Frontier. For the full interview click here.
OCTOBER 2009: Fabio Villegas, Avianca
We caught up with Villegas in October at Avianca
headquarters top find out about how he is spearheading an ambitious diversification strategy aimed at establishing the airline as a major player in other South American markets. Avianca was later to a high-profile strategic merger with Central American carrier Grupo TACA
, though each carrier would continue to operate independently. For the full interview click here.
NOVEMBER 2009: Jeff Smisek and Larry Kellner, Continental Airlines
For the November issue we interviewed Continental's outgoing chief executive Kellner and his successor Smisek about the leadership transition, ahead of another key transition for the US carrier, its move from SkyTeam into the Star Alliance. For the full interview click here.
DECEMBER 2009: Kong Dong, Air China
We ended the year interviewing the head of one of the key airlines in one of the key markets. China is expected to see solid economic growth next year and while its airlines have faced a tough last two years, Dong outlined Air China's determination to exploit the potential to help it take a place at the top table of airlines. For the full interview click here.