Meet our panel of aviation leaders, experts and analysts who will participate in a series of discussions throughout the day, exploring how the aviation industry can adapt to these challenging times - and look ahead to a brighter future.
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Aaron Heslehurst is one of the main faces on BBC World News TV.
He has been a BBC business news presenter since February 2002. In May of 2017 he launched his own named show "Talking Business with Aaron Heslehurst" A daily half hour global show that's dynamic, exciting and very energized. Aaron cuts through the jargon with live top CEO interviews and brings you the latest innovations in technology.
Over the past 15 years Aaron has presented across all of the BBC television channels, including the 24 hour News Channel, the BBC Travel Show and as part of the presenter team on BBC Breakfast, the acclaimed morning program on BBC One. He covers the latest from leading international and domestic corporate news to global finance as well as breaking major news stories.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, is one of the most recognisable figures in the global aviation industry. His vision and commitment enabled the ground-breaking development of Qatar Airways from a small regional carrier into one of the world’s leading global airlines in the span of just 20 years, most recently steering the airline through the COVID-19 pandemic where it became the largest carrier in the world. H.E. Mr. Al Baker is a successful businessman in Doha and beyond, serving as CEO of several divisions of Qatar’s national airline – including Qatar Executive, Hamad International Airport, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, Qatar Distribution Company, Qatar Duty Free and Internal Media Services, to name a few. In 2019, H.E. Mr. Al Baker was also appointed Secretary-General of Qatar’s National Tourism Council (QNTC). Born in Doha, he holds a private pilot license, is a graduate in Economics and Commerce and worked at various levels in the Civil Aviation Directorate before being tasked with creating the world’s best airline in 1997, now evident through its award-winning track record including being the only airline to have been awarded the coveted “Skytrax Airline of the Year” title, which is regarded as the pinnacle of excellence in the airline industry, five times.
Alex Macheras is an aviation analyst, broadcasting and discussing the world’s aviation news across international networks including BBC, Al Jazeera and LBC. With a focus on the commercial airline side of the industry, Alex keeps viewers and listeners up to date with the latest updates from across the airline world, the challenges facing the industry, plus exclusive sit-down discussions aviation’s most prominent executives. Alex also focuses on the delivery and entry-into-service of new jets, and recently starred as the lead in a Channel 4 special “The World’s Most Luxurious Airline” taking viewers the behind-the-scenes world of an exclusive A380 delivery for Singapore Airlines.
Alex Preston is Editor of Inflight magazine. Spanning over two decades, Alex’s B2B editorial background covers various industries including data centres, power generation and telecommunications. He can currently be found channeling his inner av-geek as an aviation editor specialising in cabin interiors, inflight entertainment and connectivity, seating, lighting and more.
Christine is an international Senior Business Leader in the Travel, Transport & Infrastructure sectors. She has a particular experience as an Organizational Change Expert, designing and implementing business innovation, optimization strategies to drive growth through restructuring processes. Most recently she has been an Independent Consultant and a Non-Executive Board Director for various organizations. She was previously CEO and Board Director at Flybe Group between 2017 and 2019 and CEO and Director of the Board at CityJet between 2010 and 2015. Earlier positions include over 2 decades at Air France-KLM Group, including her role as USA Vice President and General Manager responsible .
Ms. Ourmières-Widener is now the first female TAP CEO and is committed to the cause of gender equality and diversity, continually working to increase the representation of women across all facets of the airline industry. She is actively working with the new generation of female aviation professionals – including pilots, engineers, and those in management teams and in board seats. Christine believes it is part of her duty to use her position and voice to continually draw attention to the existing gender divide and positively impact change. Passionate about sustainability and Climate Change she is a board member of ZeroAvia, builder of the first practical zero-emission aviation powertrain and a Non-Executive Director of the Met Office, world leader in climate and weather-related services.
Dr. Joe Leader serves as the CEO of APEX, one of the largest international airline associations in the world backed by the expertise of two Board of Directors and a Board of Governors consisting solely of global airline CEOs and Presidents. As a global keynote speaker and industry expert, Dr. Leader testified before the US Congress in March on airline passenger experience advances and COVID-19 preparedness. Leader holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Emory University, an MBA in Technology Management (MBA/TM) and obtained his business Ph.D. with his dissertation research on accelerating technology adoption in aviation.
Fredrik is Inmarsat’s third executive-level appointment in three months and follows a wide-ranging review of the company’s performance and effectiveness undertaken by Inmarsat CEO Rajeev Suri since joining the world leading global mobile communications company earlier this year.
Fredrik Gustavsson was a UK-based managing director at Teneo, the global CEO advisory firm and, from 2012-2019, was Head of Strategy and M&A at easyJet. At easyJet, he was responsible to the Management Board across a broad strategy agenda and M&A execution, which included the acquisition of parts of Air Berlin, securing key airport slots for the multinational airline group and the company’s investment in the travel search engine DoHop.
Fredrik was also a Vice President of Investment Banking in the UK at Credit Suisse, the leading global investment bank, from 2006-2012. As a senior member of the team that applied Credit Suisse’s proprietary HOLT valuation framework, he helped to deepen client relationships through strategic and valuation advisory services across M&A and equity capital markets transactions.
From 2003-2006, he was a corporate finance and strategy specialist at McKinsey & Co in London.
Joanna Bailey is Editor of Simple Flying. Freshly repatriated after four years of travel across four continents with two kids in tow. Now at the helm of all content published across Simple Flying.
John Walton is an expert aviation journalist in the commercial aviation, passenger experience and aircraft manufacturing arenas. With a strong background in digital and longform journalism, he provides a unique perspective on the drivers behind aviation decision-making with an engaging, thought-provoking style. John also draws on insights from a government and academic background at HM Treasury in London, the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, and as Director of Data at Routehappy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in International Relations, is bilingual in French, is currently based in central France.
As President of Inmarsat Aviation, Philip Balaam is spearheading the company’s efforts to transform the global aviation industry by bringing complete connectivity to every aircraft and flight path in the world. He was appointed as Inmarsat Aviation’s President in September 2017, having previously served as Inmarsat’s Chief Strategy Officer. Before joining Inmarsat, Phil was responsible for international sales, strategy and business development at AsiaSat in Hong Kong. Prior to this, he was with Arianespace for 13 years, including the role of sales director based in Paris, and subsequently as sales and marketing director for Asia Pacific based in Singapore.
Scott Kirby is chief executive officer of United Airlines. He served as the company’s president from 2016 to 2020 and was responsible for United’s operations, marketing, sales, alliances, network planning and revenue management. As president, he played a pivotal role in enabling United’s cultural transformation and executing the company’s strategic growth plan. Elected in December 2020, Scott serves as the Chairman of the Star Alliance Chief Executive Board (CEB).Prior to joining United, Scott was president of American Airlines from 2013 to 2016 and president of US Airways from 2006 to 2013. He is a well-known industry veteran, with a broad and accomplished three-decade-long career in significant leadership roles within the airline industry.
One of Asia’s most recognisable entrepreneurs, Tony Fernandes is best known for co-founding low-cost carrier AirAsia with Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and democratising air travel in the region.
Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin famously bought the ailing airline for a token MYR1 (approximately USD0.25) and MYR40 million in debt, turning it around within two years and growing it from a Malaysian domestic carrier into Asia’s largest low-cost carrier by passengers carried.
Fernandes studied in the UK, and qualified as an Associate Member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in 1991 and Fellow Member in 1996. An accountant by training, Fernandes began his career in Richard Branson’s Virgin Group before returning to Malaysia as Warner Music Group’s Vice President for Southeast Asia before venturing into the airline business.
Fernandes has received numerous honours and awards over the course of his career. These include the Honour of the Commander of the Order of the British Empire, conferred by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2011, and the Commander of the Legion d’Honneur, awarded by the French government for his outstanding contributions towards the economy of France through the aviation industry.
Willie Walsh became the eighth person to lead the International Air Transport Association (IATA) when he took on the role of Director General on 1 April 2021, after an airline industry career spanning over 40 years.
Walsh is deeply familiar with IATA, having served on the IATA Board of Governors for almost 13 years between 2005 to 2018, including serving as Chair (2016-2017).
Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1961, Walsh joined the country’s flag carrier Aer Lingus in 1979, as a cadet pilot, becoming a captain in 1990. One year earlier, he had moved into a management position in the airline’s flight operations department, beginning a rise that led to him being appointed Chief Executive of Futura, Aer Lingus’ Spanish charter airline in 1998.
He returned to Aer Lingus in 2000 as Chief Operations Officer (COO) and was appointed Chief Executive in October 2001 at a time when the carrier was in a grave financial crisis following the 9.11 attacks. Walsh led a radical restructuring that returned Aer Lingus to profitability.
In 2005, Walsh was appointed Chief Executive of British Airways (BA). He led BA through the 2008/09 Global Financial Crisis, established a transatlantic joint business venture with Iberia, Finnair and American Airlines, and oversaw the 2011 merger of BA and Iberia under a newly established parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG). Walsh served as Chief Executive of IAG from its inception until he retired in September 2020.