FARNBOROUGH: ANA leads the way in airline strategy

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All Nippon Airways chief executive Shinichiro Ito and head of Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker won top honours at last night's Airline Business Strategy Awards, organised by Airline Business in partnership with executive search company Spencer Stuart.

Ito took the award for Executive Leadership, while the Airline Business award was presented to Al Baker.

shinichiro ito

LEADER: CEO Shinichiro Ito has helped ANA become a market leader in Japan

The manner in which Ito guided ANA to the position of domestic and international leader in Japan, starting Japan's first true low-cost carrier and becoming launch customer for Boeing's 787, won him the plaudits of the judges. Referring to the Star Alliance carrier's entry into the low-cost market, the judges were also impressed by his recognition of ANA's need to address an alternative market segment. "Ito has brought significant change to All Nippon Airways, while at the same time facing many obstacles, not least of which was last year's tragic earthquake and tsunami," said Airline Business editor Max Kingsley-Jones.

Al Baker won the Airline Business award in recognition of Qatar Airways' success during his 15 years at the helm. "Al Baker has transformed the airline from a small regional player into a global network carrier to rival the best in the world," said Kingsley-Jones.

The award for Low-cost Leadership was won by Cebu Pacific's chief executive Lance Gokongwei. Since the airline turned itself into a low-cost carrier in 2005, it has overtaken flag carrier Philippine Airlines to become the largest and most profitable airline in the Philippine market. "The main thing is they got their issue away and, in a challenging and difficult market, they seem to be making money," said the judges.

Copa Airlines chief executive Pedro Heilbron won the Regional Leadership award for picking what the judges called "a winning strategy from the start", adding that Copa has been "very disciplined and very successful at keeping its costs in line".

The Finance award was won by Etihad Airways after it achieved its first profit in 2012 and for its investment in Air Berlin. The judges felt the purchase of a 29% stake was a win-win deal for both parties, and were impressed by the United Arab Emirates network carrier's rapid transition to profit.

Transforming Virgin Australia from a hybrid low-cost carrier into a full-service airline in 12 months led judges to give the carrier the award for Marketing.

Cathay Pacific won the Technology award for its e-Enabled Aircraft programme, enabling aircraft to communicate with the ground in real-time, while Lufthansa won the Environment award for its biofuel programme.

The awards were founded in 2002 to recognise the best in boardroom leadership in the industry.