BLOG: Live from Sydney – insights from the CAPA CEOs in Sydney forum

Welcome to live coverage from The Blue Swan Daily of activities in Sydney, Australia at the CAPA – Centre for Aviation CEOs in Sydney forum.

Aviation leaders from around the world have been in Sydney for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 74th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit (WATS). Many have extended their stay to also attend the event at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour hotel, located almost in the shadow of CAPA’s Sydney HQ.

The Blue Swan Daily team has already caught up with many of the delegates over the past couple of days at the Sydney International Convention Centre during the IATA AGM.

  • WATCH our exclusive video interviews via CAPA TV
  • READ latest news and insights from Sydney with CAPA’s respected news briefs (members only)
  • CATCH UP on what happened at the IATA AGM in our Live Blog
  • FOLLOW developments on social media via CAPA and The Blue Swan Daily and join the debate on the official #CAPASummit channel.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

13:00 – Airline CEOs in Sydney… done!

A big thank you from all of the CAPA – Centre for Aviation team to everyone who attend the CAPA Airline CEOs in Sydney forum at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Bay hotel, as well as all the sponsors that made the event possible. We hope you enjoyed all the insightful discussions whether in attendance in Australia or from following the blog.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

12:45 – Up now… What are the big issues facing Middle East carriers and where does the future lie?

Like their peers elsewhere, carriers in the Middle East face ongoing challenges to their business models. Competition from ambitious new entrants such as the Chinese carriers are threatening the big three Gulf carriers’ position as the chief global superconnectors, who are themselves slowing down as they recalibrate their market positioning. The region’s airlines also have to contend with challenges unique to the Middle East, such as declining oil revenues, regional conflict and overcrowded airspace. We ask Middle Eastern airline CEOs how they are navigating through the current commercial and operating challenges and the future outlook for the region’s aviation industry.

  • How do the region’s smaller carriers differentiate and compete against the big three Gulf carriers?
  • Do Middle Eastern airports and air navigation service providers have the capacity to accommodate the growth ambitions of the region’s carriers?
  • What lessons can be learnt from airport privatisation here and abroad?
  • Finding the right service proposition for domestic and long haul – traditional full service or unbundled?
  • What strategies need to be adopted to meet the distributions unique distribution challenges eg around late bookings?
  • How to reconcile the aim of open skies with creating a market for a national airline?


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

12:35 – “We have no idea what our aircraft will be called next week”

The biggest customer for the Bombardier CSeries is expecting to learn imminently about the plans of Airbus to rename the aircraft family. Martin Gauss, chairman of the board and CEO at airBaltic says he is ready to take delivery of another CS300 but has “no idea what our aircraft will be called next week”. His humorous remark has got a lot of attention from journalists in the room.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

12:30 – Up now… airBaltic chairman of the board & CEO Martin Gauss


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

12:25 – CAPA TV speaks to Virgin Australia Group CEO Rob Sharp

Straight from his Airline CEO update, CAPA TV caught up with Virgin Australia Group CEO Rob Sharp. See the full interview below…


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

12:20 – Warsaw awaits arrival of new Central European hub airport

There’s lots of talk about airport development in Europe whether that’s new projects like in Istanbul or the long-running London Heathrow new runway saga. An interesting project is the new Warsaw airport highlighted by LOT Polish Airlines President & CEO Rafał Milczarski in his presentation. He says “the future growth in Europe will stay in central and eastern European markets” and that highlights the need for the Central Transport Hub (CTH) – Solidarity Airport.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

12:15 – Up now… LOT Polish Airlines President & CEO Rafał Milczarski


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

12:10 – Cathay Pacific CEO on premium economy offering: “I think we have got it right.”

“I think we have got it right,” says Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg on its premium economy product. He says it is sufficiently different from what is offered in economy and business class to minimise down selling from business class and make it attractive to those corporate economy passengers.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

12:00 – Join the debate – more via #CAPASummit


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

11:45 – Cathay Pacific’s Transformation Programme – re-shaping its operations

Growing competition in the market was the main driver behind the current Transformation Programme that is underway at Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific. We caught up with CEO Rupert Hogg last month to learn more…


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

11:30 – Following our coffee and network break… Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

11:15 – China’s Belt and Road Initiative and aviation

There has been considerable speculation about China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative as it used to be called (now Belt and Road Initiative, BRI), surrounding its application to the Chinese air transport sector to it. This report looks at which airports along the two Belts – Land and Maritime, are receiving any support from Chinese construction firms and/or investors. It finds that Chinese firms continue to enhance their presence in selected areas of these belts but not in others.

The majority of them are attracted fundamentally by Western Europe, and then by opportunities in the east of that continent where cargo rather than passenger facilities can be erected to take advantage of a comprehensive road network. Accordingly, some small airports there have been courted by several Chinese operators/investors. In contrast, many of the airports along the line of the original Silk Road through West Asia have been thus far ignored.

But in each case, it appears that aviation is either an implied part of the BRI future or is already becoming relevant.

READ MORE: https://centreforaviation.com/analysis/reports


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

11:00 – Photographs from last night’s roundtable dinner

Last night’s dinner was an unforgettable experience for attendees. Here’s some photographs from a lively evening of discussion, not always related to aviation.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:55 – Up now… Belt and Road Initiative and Aviation

China’s Belt and Road Initiative strategy essentially follows in concept the old Silk Road, a trading route linking East Asia with Europe and other regions along the way. As trading links are re-established and expanded, the One Belt seeks to accelerate and enhance the natural trend. China is helping fund much of the infrastructural development of the new “road”, either directly or through loans, and the geographic scope of the road extends southwards into the Middle East and Africa. There is a natural presumption that enhancing trade routes will be accompanied by a liberal access market regime. The strategy has not attracted a great deal of attention in aviation terms, but it would seem likely that market access principles will filter down into the aviation sector. This panel takes a high level look at current and future potential impacts for airlines, Chinese and non-Chinese.

  • What are the implications for airlines of China’s Belt and Road plan?
  • How will China’s Belt and Road strategy affect the aviation market – in both short and long term?
  • What is in the next Five Year Plan for Belt and Road?
  • Are China’s airlines adapting their strategies to align with the “road”?


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:50 – Kenya Airways heads to North America

In his fast moving presentation Kenya Airways Group MD & CEO Sebastian Mikosz highlights the airline’s plans to commence flights between Nairobi and New York from Oct-2018. Find out more with our recent CAPA TV interview…


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:45 – The long-running path to Open Skies


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:40 – Reuters: British Airways isn’t considering non-stop flights from London to Australia

More coverage from Reuters on today’s CAPA debate at the CAPA Airline CEOs in Sydney forum…


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:35 – What can fit inside Africa – the size of the prize!

Here’s a graphic from Sebastian Mikosz’s presentation on the size of Africa…


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:30 – Sebastian Mikosz:  ‘You have to unlpug what you have learnt in Europe to function in Africa’

Having previously worked at LOT Polish Airlines and now heading Kenya Airways, Sebastian Mikosz says “you have to unlpug what you have learnt in Europe to function in Africa”. He highlights how different the markets are and while you can squeeze the geography of USA, China and Europe into Africa “the size of the Africa market is the same as Ryanair”. He says it is very different to Europe. “We are using aircraft with Business Class seats on 40 minute domestic flights. The interesting thing is we are selling these seats,” he adds.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:25 – Up next… Kenya Airways Group MD & CEO Sebastian Mikosz 


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:20 – audience coverage of #CAPASummit from social media


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:15 – Rob Sharp: “If you stand still you are going to be out the game’

Virgin Australia Group Executive Rob Sharp highlights the fast moving nature of the aviation sector. “If you stand still you are going to be out the game. It’s fast moving,” he says.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:10 – Qantas and Air New Zealand deal has ‘negative impact’ for New Zealand

Virgin Australia Group Executive Rob Sharp says the recently signed partnership between Qantas and Air New Zealand will have a “negative impact” on New Zealand. With its own arrangement with Air New Zealand coming to a close (or a “divorce,” as he calls it) he says Virgin Australia must re position as the “challenger brand and number three” in the market. He says the airline will “throw its full suite” at the market and that could include LCC Tigerair Australia but “don’t think it will happen immediately”.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:05 – More insights from our opening session

IAG CEO Willie Walsh says British Airways is fully committed to the Australian market and will retain its one-stop flights from London to Sydney … and Melbourne could follow. However, there are no plans to fly non-stop. “Sitting on an aircraft for 21 hours from Heathrow to Sydney does not appeal to me,” he says. He describes the Sydney operation as “very successful” after switch from 747 to 777-300ER helped with the economics on the route.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

10:00 – Join the debate via #CAPASummit


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:55 – Up next… Virgin Australia Group Executive Rob Sharp


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:55 – Willie Walsh: “We only have two minutes and 30 seconds left. Come on Akbar, say something controversial.”


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:50 – Qatar Airways’ growth focus is on China, India and Africa

Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker highlights China, India and the African continent as the three main pillars of the airline’s development, but growth is being impacted by infrastructure issues and regulation. “We hope china will release new slots for foreign carriers to allow us all to meet the demand. There’s a big demand, but not enough slots. India is growing and facing the same infrastructure problem. Africa is our third development area.”


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:45 – Is it an end to the US-Gulf open skies debate? Al Baker doesn’t think so

Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker doesn’t believe new open skies agreements between the United States of America (USA) and both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be the end of the debate. “I don’t know what other excuse they will make now they didn’t win,” he says of the US attitude.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:40 – Willie Walsh: The Gulf and its hub airports has been the relief for Europe’s constrained airports

On the subject of the long-standing US-Gulf airline open skies debate, IAG CEO Willie Walsh says the Middle East airlines have actually helped airlines like British Airways, highlighting traffic on routes into markets such as India. “We didn’t actually want that business. We had clear overcapacity that we were putting into India transferring low yield traffic over the most expensive hub in Europe. We have got around it by using the right aircraft, replacing Boeing 747s with 787s and 777s,” he says. Its strategy was “commercially driven,” he says, and BA now successfully flies to both India and the Middle East. “We fly to destinations across the Middle East. We fly to them and are profitable. We compete directly on London – Dubai with Emirates and make good money.”


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:35 – Some media viewpoints – via #CAPASummit


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:30 – Qatar Airways investing in “successful airlines”

In a clear quip to the poor investments at Gulf rival Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker says the airline’s own strategy is based on investing “in successful airlines”. He describes the investment in IAG as “an excellent investment” and notes that it is now “at the limit of foreign ownership of a European carrier”.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:25 – Air Italy CEO shortlist includes a woman

In a serious discussion over the gender imbalance in the airline sector, acknowledged by both Willie Walsh and Akbar Al Baker as an issue, the Qatar Airways chief reveals that Italian carrier Air Italy, in which it holds a shareholding, has shortlisted a woman for the CEO role.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:20 – Here’s the formal Qatar Airways response on the gender debate


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:15 – Akbar Al Baker: “I have apologised”

You could not have escaped the attention on Akbar Al Baker over the past 12 hours after his ill-thought comments at the IATA AGM. He had been widely quoted by the world’s media after responding to a question about gender equality with the words: “Of course it has to be lead by a man because it is a very challenging position”.

Under questioning by Peter Harbison, executive chairman of CAPA he says: “The press took it out of context … it was taken out of proportion … It was a joke … I didn’t mean it that way … I have apologised. I will be very careful what I say … I will control myself.”


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:05 – We are ready to roll with our first session… the media pauses for breath!


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

09:00 – A packed audience welcomes Peter Harbison to the stage


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

08:30 – Reuters: Air traffic strikes bigger threat than fuel prices in 2018, IAG says

Away from the big aviation talking point dominating the global media headlines, Reuters has produced a story on some of Willie Walsh’s comments yesterday during our twilight session. Willie will be joining his counterpart on stage shortly.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

08:00 – Good morning from Sydney

It’s just an hour before we kick -off on day two of the CAPA Airline CEOs in Sydney forum. The weather is a touch unsettled this morning and that is a mood that is being felt across the event space after ‘those’ comments yesterday by Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker at the conclusion of the IATA AGM yesterday and our opening speaker this morning.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

07:00 – Welcome to day two at the CAPA Airline Leader Summit

It’s an early start and the agenda doesn’t kick off for a couple of hours but the CAPA team are on site to make sure everything is ready on what is sure to be another interesting day of discussions.


Tuesday 06-Jun-2018

23:00 – Once upon a time in Sydney…

The laughter rocked around the Ballroom at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour this evening as the CAPA Airline CEOs in Sydney CEO Roundtable Dinner took place. With a top table consisting of Avianca CEO Hernán Rincón; Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg; Embraer president & CEO Commercial Aviation John Slattery; IAG, CEO Willie Walsh; Jet Airways, chairman Naresh Goyal; Kenya Airways Group MD & CEO Sebastian Mikosz; Qantas Airways, CEO & managing director Alan Joyce; Regional Express, deputy chairman, Hon John Sharp; WestJet president & CEO Ed Sims and WTTC president & CEO Gloria Guevara; and a couple of airport gatecrashers, the discussion was enlightening and humorous in equal measure. A fly on the wall could tell so many stories. Unfortunately for you all, what happens at a CAPA dinner stays at a CAPA dinner.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

19:35 – The tables are set and the drinks are ready!

The tables are set and the drinks are ready for the CAPA CEO Roundtable Dinner and the discussion on ‘The Importance of Friends, Alliances, Partnerships and others’ which will commence shortly.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

18:35 – From debate… to drinks

After a well received panel session it’s time for our drinks reception ahead of tonight’s roundtable dinner. The subject of our discussion tonight is ‘The Importance of Friends, Alliances, Partnerships and others’. This high level and often light hearted discussion of the major trends in partnerships and where alliances are heading will be hosted by CNN Anchor Richard Quest so who knows what is in store… and nobody will now as this is a closed session so unfortunately we cannot provide any updates on the blog.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

18:25 – Lost or should that be misplaced bags!

IAG CEO Willie Walsh argues that “airports have got to step up to ensure the infrastructure we are forced to use is up to standard” as the panel discusses baggage related issues. He adds: “I don’t ever remember losing one in the air. It is obviously a problem on the ground.” WTTC president & CEO Gloria Guevara says as an industry we must start to put the customer first with the airport experience holding back aviation.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

18:20 – LOT CEO: ‘How we deal with security will drive the future for airports’

LOT Polish Airlines president & CEO Rafał Milczarski says “how we deal with security will drive the future for airports.” He calls for technology to be adopted to enhance customer experience and make journeys through the airport more efficient. “We will be forced to have a revolution with technology,” he says. “Fundamentally if we do it will be great for the industry.” He highlights how efficient it could be if technology can allow passengers to arrive at the airport 30 minutes ahead of departure rather than three or four times that period.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

18:15 – Join the debate: update from Twitter


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

18:10 – The pilot shortage? Does it really exist?

Avianca CEO Hernán Rincón and IAG CEO Willie Walsh both believe that claims that there is a pilot crisis is a false prophecy. “I don’t believe there is a shortage of pilots, but there are pinch points in the system,” says Mr Walsh. “There was more of a captain shortage,” he acknowledges. He adds: “I will retire in this industry before there will be a pilot shortage. The day you see me back as pilot is the day there is a shortage.”


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

18:05 – WTTC – biometrics are the answer to boosting airport capacity


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

18:00 – Colombia’s 52 day strike – “It was going to double my payroll”

IAG CEO Willie Walsh highlights strike action as a major issues currently for the company, especially for its LCC Vueling which has been significantly impacted by air traffic control strikes in the south of France. “It’s a mess. It’s destroying traffic flowing through Europe,” he says. However, Avianca CEO Hernán Rincón says the Colombian airline takes top spot for strikes following the 52-day walkout by staff last year. “It was a very difficult period for us,  but we were well prepared financially and operationally,” he says. What was the strike about? “It was going to double my payroll,” acknowledges Mr Rincón.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

17:55 – To hedge or not to hedge? What fuels the question?

Individual airlines have very different policies when it comes to protecting themselves against the rising cost of fuel. Avianca CEO Hernán Rincón has a mixed view on fuel prices due to the markets that it operates within, which includes oil producing nations that will gain economically from increasing fuel prices. He sees a “short-term downside, but medium term will be stronger.” Things are very different in Europe at IAG, its CEO Willie Walsh explains. The company, parent of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, is already hedged up to 70% for the remainder of the calendar year. “It’s clearly going to be an issue,” he says, albeit 2018 will be OK. “It’s going to be a challenge in 2019. It is having an impact as it is higher than we anticipated.”


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

17:45 – Join the debate – updates from #CAPASummit


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

17:35 – The Big Issues: What are the big issues confronting airlines today? 

The question leads us on perfectly to tonight’s twilight session panel discussion… The Big Issues: What are the big issues confronting airlines today?

Politics, regulation, security, environment, new competition, disruption in distribution, costs and revenues…. No-one ever said the airline business was easy. And it doesn’t get any easier. It’s often hard to know which issues to prioritise. But the job of a CEO is to do just that. They can’t all be top priority, so which ones to deal with and when – while trying to make money. We ask the industry’s leaders how they address this complex challenge.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

17:30 – What is the most important issue confronting the airline industry in 2018?

Peter Harbison invites delegates to build a word cloud based around what are the most important issues confronting the airline industry in 2018? As this image highlights, fuel is the clearly the biggest concern.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

17:25 – A period of “higher sustained oil prices” are on the cards, warns Embraer

With a period of “higher sustained oil prices” on the cards, Embraer president & CEO, commercial aviation, John Slattery, says having the most fuel efficient aircraft” is “always the best option”. In his viewpoint that is obviously the new Embraer E2, an aircraft which recently made its commercial debut with Norwegian regional carrier Wideroe.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

17:00 – ‘Start Me Up’  and away we go!

CAPA – Centre for Aviation executive chairman Peter Harbison takes to the stage to welcome delegates to the CAPA CEOs in Sydney forum in front of a packed audience of over 200 delegates including the most airline CEOs I have ever seen in one room outside of a formal IATA meeting.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

16:50 – The countdown commences

It is just ten minutes until the opening of this year’s CAPA- Centre for Aviation Airline CEOs in Sydney forum. Prepare to hear The Rolling Stones as CAPA executive chairman takes to the stage to welcome attendees.

600 seconds… 599 seconds… 598 seconds….


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

16:30 – The stage is set … we are almost ready to welcome delegates!


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

16:00 – Delegates are starting to arrive at the CAPA Airline CEOs in Sydney forum

Delegates are starting to congregate at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour hotel ahead of the forum and CAPA TV is already adding to its collection of exclusive insights. CAPA chief analyst is interviewing Jose Efromovich, chairman of Avianca Brazil.


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

15:00 – It’s all starting to take shape at the Sofitel


Tuesday 05-Jun-2018

14:00 – As the IATA AGM concludes… CAPA CEOs in Sydney prepares for take-off

It’s hardly a secret that the airline industry is facing myriad challenges, notably in the marketing and distribution areas, as companies with personalised data, and the analytics and artificial intelligence to go with it, become greater threats to the stability of the traditional airline model. The CAPA CEOs in Sydney forum will kick off in just a couple of hours with an amazing line-up of airline leaders joining our evening debate and dinner.