The full roster of awards, organised by FlightGlobal in association with Airline Business and Korn Ferry, have been announced.

Delta Air Lines triumphs at Decade of Airline Excellence Awards

Delta Air Lines has been recognised by the judges in the Decade of Airline Excellence Awards as the world’s best-performing airline of the past 10 years. The carrier took the accolade in both the North American regional category of the Awards, as well as being judged the overall winner.

The judges concluded that 2010-2019 was very much Delta’s decade among the major US airlines, during which it accumulated hitherto unimaginable strength and maturity, while increasing its global reach via a raft of key investments.

“Over the decade, and under the leadership of incumbent chief executive Ed Bastian and his predecessor Richard Anderson, the SkyTeam carrier pursued and achieved an employee-driven, customer-focused business strategy and culture,” said Lewis Harper, managing editor of Airline Business.

“Coming out of the financial crash, it became the poster child for the airline industry’s new financial maturity, marrying that with a strategic consistency throughout the period.”

Central to Delta’s strategy has been its focus on people and culture. Delta’s 90,000 staff earned $1.6 billion in profit-sharing in 2019, marking the sixth year in a row that the amount exceeded $1 billion.

“When you’re running an operation of that size, to still have a very strong focus on your people is very impressive,” a judge said.

“There’s been tremendous leadership, good labour relations,” another judge concludes. ”I just think that it’s a well-run airline.”

Emirates triumphs as leading Middle Eastern carrier at Decade of Airline Excellence Awards

Emirates Airline has been recognised by the judges in the Decade of Airline Excellence Awards as the Middle East’s best-performing airline of the past 10 years. The carrier took the accolade in the Middle East region category of the Awards.

Emirates Airline’s continued strength during the 2010-2019 period meant the judges recognised it as the region’s stand-out performer.

“While the Dubai carrier’s credentials were already firmly established going into the decade, it continued on its journey as a benchmark airline in terms of its customer service, brand reach and network, while its influence on key aircraft programmes endured,” said Lewis Harper, Managing Editor of Airline Business magazine.

The carrier’s consistency was partly driven by its stable leadership situation, with president Tim Clark continuing to helm the carrier throughout the decade. The period saw Emirates’ passenger numbers increase from 31 million in 2010 to nearly 59 million, with revenues doubling at the same time, as it delivered on its mission to connect the world over Dubai.

“It has an exciting network, and used the A380 to build up its hub operations - astonishing, none of us believed it was possible,” a judge observed of Emirate’s achievements with the Airbus superjumbo.

Despite being firmly against the alliance model, Emirates’ decade was also marked by important decisions to work more closely with other operators such as Qantas and Flydubai. The airline’s physical product also continued to be a strong selling point throughout the decade and in 2017 it introduced the world’s first fully-enclosed first-class private suites.

“Their product is outstanding and they are a true global connector,” a judge concludes.

Copa Airlines takes a bow as leading Latin American carrier at Decade of Airline Excellence Awards

Copa Airlines of Panama has been recognised by the judges in the Decade of Airline Excellence Awards as Latin America’s best-performing airline of the past 10 years. The carrier took the accolade in the Latin American regional category of the Awards.

“Led by one of the global industry’s longest-serving airline chiefs in Pedro Heilbron, the Star Alliance carrier has demonstrated the power of consistency of purpose and strategic discipline,” said Lewis Harper, Managing Editor of Airline Business magazine.

“Over the decade it nearly doubled its revenues and achieved one of the highest rates of profitability across the industry, with a remarkable net profit margin of at least 13% in seven of those 10 years,” said Harper.

By far the smallest carrier among the winners in terms of passenger traffic, Copa Airlines was the judges’ pick for a decade in which it continued to punch above its weight in a challenging region.

“This is a tiny carrier in a country with no domestic market,” a judge said. “It has really focused its strategy on its fleet and creating a hub through Panama to connect points all over Latin America with other points in the Americas and the Caribbean, focusing on secondary markets. They’ve just done an outstanding job.”

It is no small achievement that during more than three decades in charge, Heilbron has ensured that Copa prospers with a differentiated and defendable business model.

“Although they are a network carrier, their cost base completes with some of the best low-cost carriers,” another judge stated. “It’s really a Cinderella story for me.”

Ryanair recognised as leading Europe carrier at Decade of Airline Excellence Awards

Ryanair has been recognised by the judges in the Decade of Airline Excellence Awards as Europe’s best-performing airline of the past 10 years. The carrier took the accolade in the European region category of the Awards.

“The past decade saw Ryanair firmly establish itself as perhaps the world’s best contemporary example of the low-cost business model being implemented to its full potential,” said Lewis Harper, Managing Editor of Airline Business magazine.

“In doing so, its influence was felt across the short-haul travel market, as it dragged legacy operators into defensive manoeuvres and challenged budget rivals with its ultra-low-cost base. Put simply, Ryanair became a carrier that even the most ardent full-service devotees would struggle not to have a grudging respect for,” said Harper.

“They revolutionised air travel within Europe,” said one judge. “They revolutionised the market, they revolutionised and impacted on what the legacy carriers were doing, they revolutionised passenger expectations… and passengers flock back to them time and time again.”

All this was achieved with outspoken Michael O’Leary at the helm, spearheading the commoditisation of short-haul travel in the region.

Central to its strategy, Ryanair was pioneering in terms of taking advantage of Europe’s relatively liberal aviation market, far beyond its Dublin home. Challenges emerged and were overcome during the period, such as a move to recognise unions, which heralded high-profile negotiations but failed to significantly dent its cost advantage.

The latter part of the decade also saw Ryanair adopt an IAG-like business structure, with O’Leary overseeing the chief executives of the group’s mainline operation, Lauda, Polish leisure carrier Buzz, and Malta Air.

The strength it took from its strategy and performance in aviation’s boom decade meant it entered the current crisis with a hefty pile of cash to see it through.

“It’s formidable what Michael and the team have done there,” said another judge.

Another judge concluded: “It’s a beast of a machine and works it incredibly well.”

All Nippon Airways takes a bow as leading Asia-Pacific carrier at Decade of Airline Excellence Awards

All Nippon Airways has been recognised by the judges in the Decade of Airline Excellence Awards as the Asia-Pacific’s best-performing airline of the past 10 years. The carrier took the accolade in the Asia-Pacific region category of the Awards.

“In one of the hardest-fought categories, Japanese group All Nippon Airways drew universal recognition from the judges for a decade that saw it surge ahead of rival Japan Airlines, while demonstrating impressive agility in what can be a conservative market,” said Lewis Harper, Managing Editor of Airline Business magazine.

“To do what they’ve done in the Japanese culture – to create an agile operation and business culture – has been remarkable,” one judge said.

The ANA story follows a huge transformation programme in the 2000s and from 2010 to 2019 – under the leadership of Shinichiro Ito and, from 2015, Shinya Katanozaka – ANA prospered, while retaining a strong focus on service, reliability and safety.

“From a product point of view, it’s outstanding,” another judge observed.

Over the decade, ANA became the leader in the Japanese market by focusing its core full-service carrier around a dual-hub strategy at Toyko’s Narita and Haneda airports. It also made investments in other carriers and launched into the low-cost market.

“The work they have done in pivoting to what the market needs in the low-cost carrier segment is impressive,” according to a judge.

ANA ended the decade among the world’s top airline groups in terms of financial might.

“I’ve always been impressed by how these guys adapt,” another judge stated. “They’re just sponges, they’ll look around, take everything in, and they’ll apply it to their business.”

Ethiopian Airlines takes the honour of leading African carrier at Decade of Airline Excellence Awards

Ethiopian Airlines has been recognised by the judges in the Decade of Airline Excellence Awards as Africa’s best-performing airline of the past 10 years. The carrier took the accolade in the African regional category of the Awards.

Operating in an incredibly challenging region for airlines, state-owned Ethiopian evolved over the decade from a national carrier to the first true pan-African airline, based on a strategy that leveraged its hub in Addis Ababa and strategic equity investments in smaller national African operators.

“Under the leadership of Tewolde Gebremariam since 2011 – the year in which the carrier also joined the Star Alliance - Ethiopian’s core strategy has been underpinned by disciplined management and a productive relationship with its government owners,” said Lewis Harper, Managing Editor of Airline Business magazine.

Ethiopian Airlines dominated the discussion among judges when it came to the Africa award.

“I think they are the outstanding airline in Africa by far,” one judge said, reflecting wider sentiment among the panel.

“I particularly like Ethiopian’s involvement in economic development in the country,” said a judge.

All the while it deployed a modern fleet and progressive business approaches, leading to some impressive financial returns. It recorded an eight-fold increase in revenues and a six-fold rise in profitability over the decade.

“Their revenues have soared in what has been a particularly challenging market,” another judge remarked.

By the end of the decade, the airline commanded the lion’s share of the pan-African network, having overtaken Dubai as the biggest transfer hub for long-haul travel to Africa in 2018. The airline’s maturity shone through in its response, cementing its status as a rare example of an African carrier that sits comfortably alongside the world’s top airlines.

About the Decade of Airline Excellence Awards

The Decade of Airline Excellence Awards was launched by FlightGlobal, Airline Business and the civil aviation practice of Korn Ferry, the largest human-capital solutions provider in the world, this year, in lieu of the Airline Strategy Awards, which will return in 2021. Winners are selected by an independent panel of industry experts.

With the industry facing so much near-term turmoil, the awards partners decided to take the opportunity to celebrate the best airline stories from the 2010-2019 decade prior to the current crisis – the most financially successful one in airline history, which brought air travel to new markets and catapulted issues such as sustainability to the forefront of strategic thinking.

This one-off event celebrates compelling achievements since the financial crisis, recognising airlines and airline groups that had a lasting, positive effect on the industry within the 2010-2019 timeframe.

Key sponsors of the awards are Pratt & Whitney, Collins Aerospace, Embraer, Shannon Engine Support, Cirium and Eways Aviation.

About FlightGlobal:

FlightGlobal provides information, news, conferences and recruitment to help people and businesses to learn more, network and grow in the aviation industry. With 111 years of aviation publishing, FlightGlobal is one of the industry’s leading news sources, including respected publications; Flight International, Airline Business, aviation event Dailies and A growing conferences program within the FlightGlobal portfolio is addressing key market issues and questions in aviation, and FlightJobs recruitment supports individuals throughout their career and enables organizations to find the best aviation talent. | LinkedIn | Twitter

About Airline Business:

As the premier monthly title for airline boardrooms worldwide, Airline Business covers the key strategic and business issues in the air transport industry. It was established in 1985 and has editorial offices in London, Washington DC and Singapore.

About Korn Ferry:

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with clients to design their organizational structures, roles and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward, develop and motivate their workforce. And, we help professionals navigate and advance their careers. Our 8,600 colleagues serve clients in more than 50 countries. We offer five core solutions.

  • Organizational Strategy
  • Assessment and Succession
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Leadership Development
  • Rewards and Benefits

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Editorial contact:Lewis HarperManaging EditorAirline Business+44 207 911 3105lewis.harper@flightglobal.comMedia contact: Amber EliasHead of Digital Engagement & Development+44 7816 991648