2021 ATW Award winners announced

Credit: JetBlue

US carriers JetBlue and United Airlines, Mexican low-cost carrier Viva Aerobus, Qatar Airways Cargo, Incheon International Airport in Seoul, and former IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac have been named winners in the 2021 Air Transport World Airline Industry Achievement Awards.

The 47th ATW Awards will mark a return of this prestigious event, which was suspended last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be held as an in-person gala event in Boston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 5. This year’s winners are:

JetBlue, Airline Market Leader: New York-based JetBlue continues to be one of the world’s most innovative and trendsetting airlines. JetBlue has continued its hallmark for innovation, unrolling a new premium cabin for its launch into transatlantic service—a service that will be a market gamechanger. The carrier also forged an alliance with American Airlines that will boost its east coast connectivity. When the pandemic began, JetBlue was among the first US carriers to provide complete ticket flexibility and to require masks. Throughout, the company maintained a strong track record in sustainability, diversity and community programs. In every sense, JetBlue is an airline and a company that breaks the mold and that others seek to emulate.

United Airlines, Eco-Airline of the Year: United has committed to being 100% green by 2050, without relying on carbon offsets, and was the only airline to be placed on the 2020 CDP Climate Change A List. "United is honored to be recognized for the industry-leading steps we have taken to decarbonize travel by ATW as its Eco-Airline of the Year," said United CEO Scott Kirby. “United has committed to purchase more sustainable aviation fuel than nearly the rest of the world’s airlines combined. We’ll need the world to come together to solve this global problem and that’s why we created the Eco-Skies Alliance to allow like-minded companies and individuals to help us invest in even more sustainable aviation fuel. These new ideas are a product of the innovative thinking that is at the core of United’s culture, and it’s never been more important or more timely for us to apply this expertise to help save our planet.”

Qatar Airways Cargo, Cargo Operator of the Year: Cargo saw renewed prominence in 2020, with many airlines focusing on that business as passenger demand slumped. Few switched as fast and as innovatively as Qatar Airways, which rapidly ramped up cargo operations for urgent medical supply transport, pushed for faster digitalization of the air cargo industry and is now involved in wider programs, such as the transport of lions that were in captivity in Ukraine to a wildlife refuge in South Africa.

Viva Aerobus, Value Airline of the Year: This Mexican ultra-low-cost carrier is transforming travel for millions of people who previously only had the option of making long journeys via bus. Viva Aerobus has become the second largest Mexican operator in the Mexico-US transborder market. The agile airline is owned by a company that operates a major bus network in Mexico, so it can integrate ticket sales with bus tickets, allowing people to get an all-in-one bus connection between airports and their hometowns.

Incheon International Airport, Airport of the Year: Seoul’s international hub became the world’s first accredited Airport Council International (ACI) Level 4 Airport in 2020, which is about first-class customer experience. It also became the first Asia-Pacific airport to be accredited under the new ACI airport health accreditation program. This very high-tech airport is at the forefront of using contactless, biometric, and robotic technologies to clean and ensure a safe, easy and uncongested passenger experience. Incheon also launched an incentive program in May that directly helps passenger airlines financially and stimulates passenger traffic.

Alexandre de Juniac, Excellence in Leadership Recipient: An industry icon who had already established a lifelong aviation career at Thomson-CSF, Thales, Air France and Air France-KLM Group, Alexandre de Juniac became the seventh Director General and CEO at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2016. A strong advocate for aviation liberalism, open borders, sustainability and air traffic reform, he also led the airline industry through the beginnings of its worst-ever crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, tirelessly campaigning until his retirement in March to demonstrate the safety of air travel and the economic necessity to re-open borders, stimulate economies and restore the fundamental freedom to travel.

“We are very excited about celebrating the remarkable achievements of our 2021 winners and, indeed, the entire air transport industry. The dedication, innovation and excellence of our winners show how much can be achieved even in the face of severe crisis,” ATW editor-in-chief Karen Walker said.

The winner of the 2021 ATW Airline of the Year Award will be announced later this month.