Who Are The Best Airline CEOs? My 5 Favorites…

Who Are The Best Airline CEOs? My 5 Favorites…

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Last week, a reader asked me to write a post about the airline CEOs I like the most. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this, and figured this would be a fun topic to discuss. I’ll share my picks, and then I’d love to hear what OMAAT readers think.

The airline CEOs I have the most respect for

Let me start by stating that I’m compiling a list of the major airline (or airline group) CEOs that I have the most respect for. I’m not suggesting they’re the “best” airline CEOs (since that’s hard to quantify), and I’m also not suggesting that my favorites should be the same as your favorites.

Before I share my picks, let me mention a few things upfront:

  • As an avgeek, I have a lot of respect for people who have dedicated their entire careers to aviation, because to me that’s really cool
  • I have respect for different airline CEOs for different reasons, and I have some controversial CEOs I really respect, even though I might not like everything they do
  • I obviously don’t know everything about every airline, so I’m sure there are lots of great CEOs at smaller airlines that I’m just not that familiar with
  • I’m sticking exclusively to current airline and airline group CEOs; there are lots of amazing former CEOs I respect, but I won’t be including them on this list
  • I’m most impressed by CEOs who have really shaped the industry and have had a radical impact on their airline (or even country), rather than those who have just done a decent job, but haven’t really rocked the boat

With that out of the way, below are the five airline CEOs I most respect, in no particular order…

Tim Clark (Emirates)

Tim Clark is Emirates’ President (not CEO), but for all practical purposes, he runs the airline. Clark is an absolute legend in the airline industry, and has quite literally transformed Dubai and Emirates. He started his career at Gulf Air in 1975, and has now been President of Emirates for two decades.

Emirates is probably the world’s best known airline brand. The airline scaled Airbus A380s in a way no other airline has. And really, Emirates has turned Dubai into what it is today. A lot of the credit for that goes to Clark, because this has all been part of his vision.

I love listening to any interview with Clark, because he’s such a bright guy. He doesn’t just have a good grasp of his own airline, but he has a pulse on the entire industry that not many people have. He’s also remarkably honest in his interviews, and isn’t just pushing the narrative that suits his interests.

Now, one thing I don’t love about Clark is that he’s not necessarily always a product guy. For example, Emirates’ 777 business class is subpar, and in 2023 the airline doesn’t have a single aircraft with high speed Wi-Fi. Then again, who doesn’t lover a shower and a bar? 😉

Clark has shaped Emirates into what it is today

Akbar Al Baker (Qatar Airways)

Akbar Al Baker is the CEO of Qatar Airways (and the Chairman of Qatar Tourism, and the CEO of Hamad International Airport). Al Baker has been CEO of Qatar Airways since 1997, and is the visionary behind what the airline has become today.

As a huge passenger experience geek, what impresses me most about Al Baker is how laser focused he is on the passenger experience. There’s not another airline CEO who cares more about investing in the passenger experience than Al Baker. On top of that, the airline has grown from a small regional airline to one of the world’s largest global airlines in the past couple of decades.

Al Baker eats, sleeps, and breathes, his airline. I don’t think you’ll find another airline executive who is as passionate about their airline as Al Baker is.

Credit in recent years also goes to Thierry Antinori, Qatar Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer, who works closely alongside Al Baker. That’s probably the smartest person that Al Baker ever poached.

In fairness, Al Baker isn’t without controversy. Quite to the contrary, he’s perhaps the most controversial airline CEO out there. He’s known for saying some pretty outlandish things, many of which I disagree with. In the past couple of years he seems to be a bit more deliberate with what he says, though.

Al Baker has an incredible focus on passenger experience

Ben Smith (Air France-KLM)

Ben Smith has been CEO of Air France-KLM since 2018, and prior to that was President of Air Canada.

Let me start by saying that I don’t envy the role of being head of one of the “big three” European airline groups. You have huge ultra low cost carrier competition on short haul flights, and competition from Gulf carriers on long haul flights.

Looking at Smith’s counterparts, you have Lufthansa’s Carsten Spohr, who primarily seems skilled at trying to create new low cost carrier concepts to pay staff less, all while seemingly being incapable of launching a new business class product in a reasonable timeline. And then you have IAG, which… I mean… is IAG.

By comparison, I consider Air France-KLM to be very well run. Smith is a bright guy, and does a good job balancing profitability, passenger experience, and keeping employees happy. For example, one of his first orders of business when he started at Air France-KLM was shutting down Joon, Air France’s low cost carrier. Even though it would cost the airline group a bit, he seemingly thought it was worth it for morale and product consistency.

On top of that, we’ve seen Air France and KLM continue to invest in premium products, with new business class products for both Air France and KLM, plus a new first class product for Air France launching soon. While I don’t like all the decisions that have been made (like charging for seats in business class, and further limiting first class awards), on balance I think Air France-KLM is the best run of the European airline groups.

Smith has done a great job improving Air France-KLM products

Michael O’Leary (Ryanair)

Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary is yet another person who has had a huge impact on the airline industry. Richard Branson famously once said “if you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline.” Well, O’Leary is actually a billionaire, and he made his fortune from airlines.

O’Leary has been CEO of Ryanair since 1994 (yes, for nearly three decades), and has transformed the airline into the largest in Europe. While ultra low cost carriers are now common around the globe, Ryanair was the first large, successful ultra low cost carrier. The impact of ultra low cost carriers on European aviation has been huge, and O’Leary is largely to credit for that.

As you’d expect, O’Leary also isn’t without controversy. In addition to having a raunchy sense of humor, Ryanair has used some questionable employment tactics over the years, as most employees are hired through third parties, limiting the ability of staff to collectively bargain, or get competitive wages.

O’Leary is behind the most successful ultra low cost carrier ever

Scott Kirby (United)

When I started thinking of airline CEOs I respect, no one in the United States came to mind. I mean, there are some former CEOs I really respect (Herb Kelleher, Gordon Bethune, etc.), but are any major airline CEOs nowadays really doing much to stand out? American’s Robert Isom and Delta’s Ed Bastian seem to simply be continuing what their predecessors started.

With that in mind, United CEO Scott Kirby has really impressed me since moving from American to United. At American (and US Airways and America West prior to that), he was known for being a bean counter. Meanwhile at United he has taken a much different approach, and is trying to make the airline more premium. I’m impressed by that, as well as the general way he communicates about his vision for the airline.

It’s great to see United becoming such a global airline with an amazing route network, and also to see United investing in the interiors of its narrow body jets.

I do wish Kirby would focus a bit more on making MileagePlus a priority in terms of value for members. We’ve seen the program devalued significantly under his tenure, with few improvements.

I’m impressed by what Kirby has done at United

Bottom line

A reader asked me which airline CEOs I respect most. It took me some time to think about my answer, but the above are among the people I respect the most.

I have a lot of respect for CEOs who built something amazing or took a different direction than the previous CEOs of the airlines, which is how I picked several of these people. Let me emphasize that just because someone isn’t on the list doesn’t mean I don’t respect them — I’m sure I missed some great ones, and for that matter, I’m just not familiar in great detail with every airline CEO.

Perhaps an even more interesting list would be the five airline CEOs I respect the least, but I think I’ll avoid that for now. 😉

Which airline CEOs do you most respect?

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  1. Anonymous Guest

    Very happy to see that Jet2's Steve Heapy hasn't made the list.
    Behind closed doors, he's a horrible horrible man to work for. The company gives the customer friendly spiel, but in reality the company is a very toxic place to be.

    I've seen him to back people in to the corner of his boardroom until he gets his own way!

  2. JetBlueFanboy Diamond

    The CEO's I respect/"admire" the most (both historical and current) are:
    1) David Neeleman
    2) Juan Trippe
    3) Gordon Bethune
    4) Sir Richard Branson
    5) Sir Tim Clark
    Honorable mentions: Scott Kirby, Michael O'Leary.
    By the way, I'd love to see a list of your least favorites lol.

  3. Natarajan Sivsubramanian Guest

    Your judgment is not correct you have omitted the names of ceo s managing directors chairmen etc of other carriers
    Like Ethiopian airlines air New Zealand
    Lufthansa group AirIndia whose ceo s
    Are having high engineering degrees
    Like 747 engineers who became MD/ceo

  4. JollyT Guest

    Seems the CEOs with the loudest voices or the best spin doctors made the list. The best CEOs let the results do the talking!

  5. iamhere Guest

    Agree seems biased toward those with a good product or good passenger experience. A CEO has to balance many stakeholders, the passenger being one of them. A company, in this case an airline, could be well run but not have one of the best customer experiences. It could also lack a few areas for the customer but be excellent in other ways.

  6. Thilo Klingenberg Guest

    I don't quite understand why the United CEO is on this top 5 list. Delta has the most consistent product of the US carriers, so has the United CEO really done much - maybe he's just the better talker. Re the Lufthansa CEO, yes, they have been slow to roll out the new business class. However, they were hampered a lot by Boeing's troubles with the 777x, to which the the new business class was...

    I don't quite understand why the United CEO is on this top 5 list. Delta has the most consistent product of the US carriers, so has the United CEO really done much - maybe he's just the better talker. Re the Lufthansa CEO, yes, they have been slow to roll out the new business class. However, they were hampered a lot by Boeing's troubles with the 777x, to which the the new business class was tied in a way. And in the end, the CEO's first responsibility is to the shareholders and there I think he's done a fantastic job despite the Covid negatives.

  7. Femi Guest

    Ben,

    This post is fascinating. Often when you think of these airlines – certainly when I think of them –it’s mostly from a perspective of a passenger experience and what the airline/brand means to you; I rarely think about the folks at the helm. That’s why I hardly know any of these CEOs except for Michael O’Leary who's ‘always’ in the news. If he’s not advocating changes to save the airline(s) from the damage...

    Ben,

    This post is fascinating. Often when you think of these airlines – certainly when I think of them –it’s mostly from a perspective of a passenger experience and what the airline/brand means to you; I rarely think about the folks at the helm. That’s why I hardly know any of these CEOs except for Michael O’Leary who's ‘always’ in the news. If he’s not advocating changes to save the airline(s) from the damage wrought by the pandemic, it’s about justifying his airline’s position on a controversial pay package for the staff, etc. He certainly deserves to be on this list because of how his has transformed the industry and it comes to budget fares, but the thing with Ryanair is that if something goes wrong with you flight, it can be an awful experience because their customer service is not the best.

  8. khalid Guest

    Delta CEO should be there in top 5.

  9. Azamaraal Diamond

    Ben - you state that one of the reasons you love Akbar al Baker is because of his incredible customer service attitude. Unfortunately that does not seem to have migrated down to customer service or "VIP and Customer Care Supervisor" to whom I have been corresponding regarding denied service on a valid PNR. After 15 months I have given up trying to get a reasoned response and need to escalate to a higher level.

    Do...

    Ben - you state that one of the reasons you love Akbar al Baker is because of his incredible customer service attitude. Unfortunately that does not seem to have migrated down to customer service or "VIP and Customer Care Supervisor" to whom I have been corresponding regarding denied service on a valid PNR. After 15 months I have given up trying to get a reasoned response and need to escalate to a higher level.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to reach Akbar al Baker at any of his official positions? You probably don't want to make this known to all residents of planet earth so could you please reply by email or DM?

    The ironic thinn is that the VIP and Customer Care Services Supervisor always ends with "Nothing is more important to us than regaining your trust and we hope that you will allow us the opportunity to serve you again on our flights and provide you with the positive experience that you have come to expect from us.

    Respectfully yours,"

    My reply "not until you refund the $3200"

  10. James Guest

    A more timely question, and consideration, would be which CEO best managed an airline pre / during / post pandemic? A CEO is responsible to many things, passengers, staff, and shareholders. Which airline recovered the fastest in today's new world of aviation?

  11. skedguy Guest

    4/5 spot on. Ben Smith meh! Worked with him at AC and wasn't blown away. My choice would have been Walter Cho at KE or (apart from a misguided fascination with Airbus and the 388) Alan Joyce who in MHO did a good job at QF except he has an amazing talent for pissing off his workforce. The best CEO who never was: Rupert Duchesne who was VP Marketing at AC.

  12. Mohammed Guest

    Having worked at some of these companies. Not a single second I have missed working at the World's most toxic "best 5 star airline", the ceo is the most despicable person I've ever met and worked for, by far the worst airline to work at in the world and also shows as they only find staff in poor countries.
    Yellow blue harp was a nicer work environment but always cost cutting. Now I'm at...

    Having worked at some of these companies. Not a single second I have missed working at the World's most toxic "best 5 star airline", the ceo is the most despicable person I've ever met and worked for, by far the worst airline to work at in the world and also shows as they only find staff in poor countries.
    Yellow blue harp was a nicer work environment but always cost cutting. Now I'm at an all blue airline and think its the best airline in the world. My choice of best Ceo is obviously blue, one with respect for staff, customers and safety. I hope more people choose companies that respect their staff (not only airlines). Once you've worked in such a toxic workplace you start to look at your own spending behaviour.

  13. kimshep Guest

    I'm surprised to see the Tata brothers missing from this evaluation.

    To take an unruly and unstructured mess like Air India and begin restructuring it - with a firm vision - is certainly no easy task.
    Whilst their endeavours are only beginning to emerge in a formal manner - ie: plans for seriously expanding fleet numbers as well as planning a global cohesive route structure, all while changing an endemic culture of misuse...

    I'm surprised to see the Tata brothers missing from this evaluation.

    To take an unruly and unstructured mess like Air India and begin restructuring it - with a firm vision - is certainly no easy task.
    Whilst their endeavours are only beginning to emerge in a formal manner - ie: plans for seriously expanding fleet numbers as well as planning a global cohesive route structure, all while changing an endemic culture of misuse of both WB and NB frames is nothing short of extraordinary.

    Perhaps, reviewing this list in 12-18 months time will see some recognition for the 'new' owners of what has been historically a chaotic mess as a government enterprise .. and what may see a possible chance of returning as a truly global carrier of merit?

  14. GBOAC Diamond

    I beg to differ with the assertion that "but as stated that is the CEO's job period - create value for shareholders." The US rail industry has been severely damaged by that attitude -- about a decade ago a prominent railroad CEO created a new way to run the railroad which was profitable and resulted in great stockholder returns. However it was accomplished by closing rail yards, reducing staff, and most importantly eliminating what was...

    I beg to differ with the assertion that "but as stated that is the CEO's job period - create value for shareholders." The US rail industry has been severely damaged by that attitude -- about a decade ago a prominent railroad CEO created a new way to run the railroad which was profitable and resulted in great stockholder returns. However it was accomplished by closing rail yards, reducing staff, and most importantly eliminating what was service to what was perceived to be low yield customers. Great results in the short term but over the long term, railroads who followed this philosophy not drove a lot of business away, but got tangled up in their overemphasis on reducing their own infrastructure.
    So I'll assert that providing good service to your customers is just as important as providing a good return to the shareholders.
    YMMV

  15. Hector Sandoval Guest

    Ben, as someone who has spent more than 35 years in the airline business, and is quite "obsessed" by the leadership styles in the industry, I think you wrote a masterful essay on some of it's most relevant and significant CEOs. Well done and thanks.

  16. ZTravel Guest

    Awesome blog Ben! Agree with your reasoning and list. Do more blogs like this!

    On the Delta front, there’s lack of creativity and delta has a very strong hold on Air France-KLM where their products and pricing got worse under delta’s influence (per someone in the AF leadership team)

  17. Him Guest

    How about donald trump for trump shuttle?

    He is the 4th most intelligent leader in the world ( after Kim, Putin and Xi)

  18. Ben Guest

    This feels overly biased towards "CEOs of airlines with a good premium product". For running an airline overall, there's no way Air France-KLM is ahead of IAG. Whether we like the service or not, it's far more profitable and has a proper strategy via its different brands and pricing. AF-K just isn't there yet.

    1. Dominic Kivni Guest

      That's exactly what it is (excluding O'Leary), no objective industry observer would say that AF-KLM does a good job balancing profitability (lmao AF requires subsidies from both the French government AND KLM to stay afloat despite having tons of O&D business traffic, being hubbed in the primary airport of the largest inbound tourism market in the world, and having all sorts of lucrative monopoly routes to former colonies), passenger experience (AF-KLM do generally have better...

      That's exactly what it is (excluding O'Leary), no objective industry observer would say that AF-KLM does a good job balancing profitability (lmao AF requires subsidies from both the French government AND KLM to stay afloat despite having tons of O&D business traffic, being hubbed in the primary airport of the largest inbound tourism market in the world, and having all sorts of lucrative monopoly routes to former colonies), passenger experience (AF-KLM do generally have better premium products than the other European network airlines), and keeping employees happy (unless you ignore all of the many strikes that employees have had). AF-KLM has by far the worst return on capital of any European airline group, which, while not Ben Smith's fault, is also not something he has fixed either

    2. Ben Guest

      I don’t think that’s quite fair. US airlines were massively bailed out during Covid, same with the Gulf carriers. AFKL received billions in stabilizing *loans* (which were repaid with interest at market rate) not *grants* (like the US carriers received) from both the French and Dutch state.

      On top of that the EU and the Dutch state imposed punitive remedies (i.e. slot relinquishment) in order for the support to be approved. LH also received loans...

      I don’t think that’s quite fair. US airlines were massively bailed out during Covid, same with the Gulf carriers. AFKL received billions in stabilizing *loans* (which were repaid with interest at market rate) not *grants* (like the US carriers received) from both the French and Dutch state.

      On top of that the EU and the Dutch state imposed punitive remedies (i.e. slot relinquishment) in order for the support to be approved. LH also received loans from Germany, but the remedies were not punitive.

      Also AF had the worst labour relations of any western airline. It is now going into its 5th year of no strikes, despite dozens of national strikes particularly at other French companies in the transport sector. For France that’s might impressive.

  19. Airline Worker Guest

    As someone who has worked with three individuals mentioned (and one of them at two different airlines), I am kind of surprised at your comments.

    While I understand this list is written from an airline fanboy perspective and you have real no idea what the working environment is really like with these individuals, I find some of the comments intriguing. Being part of the strategy planning team I have had my fair share of exposure...

    As someone who has worked with three individuals mentioned (and one of them at two different airlines), I am kind of surprised at your comments.

    While I understand this list is written from an airline fanboy perspective and you have real no idea what the working environment is really like with these individuals, I find some of the comments intriguing. Being part of the strategy planning team I have had my fair share of exposure to upper management at three of these airlines due to the nature of my work and as they often say "never meet your idols." I really want to know more about why you picked some of these folks and maybe one day I could tell you what they are really like behind closed doors.

  20. Greg Guest

    Thank you for mentioning Gordon Bethune in the former CEO camp

    A living legend

  21. Tim Dunn Diamond

    I am grateful there are people that see through the shallow attraction to personality and the ability to run one’s mouth in front of the world that is in no way the basis for running a good business.
    Scott Kirby said over a year ago that he would have an industry leading pilot contract and yet Delta was the one that sent ALL of its employees’ compensation soaring. AA has an AIP w its pilots but Scott Kirby continues to make excuses

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      You missed or ignored the part about even AA being able to come up w an AIP. If AA which is the constant subject of internet chatter about bankruptcy then getting a contract is not as Duffy as Kirby makes it out to be
      The simple reality is that Scott Kirby has to shell out billions per year more because of the Delta contract and the numbers for United don’t work so Kirby keeps...

      You missed or ignored the part about even AA being able to come up w an AIP. If AA which is the constant subject of internet chatter about bankruptcy then getting a contract is not as Duffy as Kirby makes it out to be
      The simple reality is that Scott Kirby has to shell out billions per year more because of the Delta contract and the numbers for United don’t work so Kirby keeps delaying. Kirby is spending $50 billion on fleet and employees aren’t on his spending plan.
      Real CEOs can figure out how to get their employees paid and build their business. Most of the CEOs on Ben’s list do not have industry leading pay for their employees

    2. CecilO Guest

      I agree Tim Dunn 2024 (let’s see how many more paragraphs of babble we get )

  22. 9A Guest

    A blog post titled "Who are the best airline CEOs?" and, unless I missed it, there wasn't a single mention of returning value to shareholders. That is the CEOs job. Hard stop. Yes there are ancillary things like labor relations, building cultures, etc. However, it all leads back to shareholder value.

    Maybe this blog post should have been titled "Who are my favorite airline CEOs" instead as it would've been a much more accurate title

    1. Harry Guest

      Exactly. I know profit is a bad word made that way by the inside the beltway crowd, but as stated that is the CEO's job period - create value for shareholders. People seem to forget there are basically three ways to get more money for things like planes, lounges, better food, whatever. Wall Street is the big one (shareholders) or go the AA route by borrowing, and then there is profit. One and three are...

      Exactly. I know profit is a bad word made that way by the inside the beltway crowd, but as stated that is the CEO's job period - create value for shareholders. People seem to forget there are basically three ways to get more money for things like planes, lounges, better food, whatever. Wall Street is the big one (shareholders) or go the AA route by borrowing, and then there is profit. One and three are heavily linked positively while the second one works negatively against one and three. Ask any AA exec. Go figure.

    2. John D Guest

      The last time I checked, this was not Kiplingers, Barrons, the Wall Street Journal or any of the other media that talks about shareholder value. This blog is about passengers, you know, the people who pay to fly the airplanes who, if they didn't, shareholder value would be $0. So it only makes since that this would be written toward those who read it.

  23. Joel S Avgeek Guest

    Absolutely, Ed Bastian should have been included. He operates quietly in the background but has immense support from his employees. To continue the legacy of Gerry Grinstein so profitably and empathetically speaks volumes for his leadership - especially during the Pandemic. Pardon me, Scott Kirby likes to shoot off his mouth, loves the camera and has a great PR head in Josh Earnest - Obama's former press secretary. I might give Kirby an honorable mention...

    Absolutely, Ed Bastian should have been included. He operates quietly in the background but has immense support from his employees. To continue the legacy of Gerry Grinstein so profitably and empathetically speaks volumes for his leadership - especially during the Pandemic. Pardon me, Scott Kirby likes to shoot off his mouth, loves the camera and has a great PR head in Josh Earnest - Obama's former press secretary. I might give Kirby an honorable mention once I see 8 consecutive quarters of global financial leadership on the part of United.

    1. Greg Guest

      Delta has gone to vapor ware under Bastian.

      Anderson gets credit for the remarkable turnaround, those exciting 2010-2015 days with Deltalina fronting the safety videos and ex Continental execs like Hauenstein calling the shots from the Bethune playbook

      Been 'just another big airline' since

    2. JC Guest

      Glen H is still President, no?

  24. Chris W Guest

    You respect Akbar who said women aren't smart enough to run airlines?

    Right....

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Chris W -- Of course I unequivocally disagree with those comments. I think I acknowledged in this post that he has said quite a few things that I disagree with. My list wasn't intended to recognize the people with the best character, but rather I do believe that he has more of a focus on passenger experience than anyone else in the industry, and I (specifically) respect that.

  25. Klaus Guest

    Carsten Spohr didn’t make it? :)

    Yes, Martin Gauss should get an honorary mention.

  26. Aman Guest

    I agree with all of the names on your list except one- Al Baker. He is completely tone deaf not to mention advocates inappropriate working conditions, sexism among a whole host of other agendas that are honestly at odds with today’s social values.
    Even from a business stand point, his outburst with Airbus was absolutely comical- it lacked substance and he was forced to eat humble pie after having many orders delayed, him having...

    I agree with all of the names on your list except one- Al Baker. He is completely tone deaf not to mention advocates inappropriate working conditions, sexism among a whole host of other agendas that are honestly at odds with today’s social values.
    Even from a business stand point, his outburst with Airbus was absolutely comical- it lacked substance and he was forced to eat humble pie after having many orders delayed, him having to invest into a fleet of 737 maxes that were sub-optimal for QR’s operations and most of all potentially jeopardising a relationship with arguably the most important aircraft manufacturer in the world- all for his ego. Certainly doesn’t make for a great CEO.
    I would rather have Ed Bastian on the list- Delta may not have the most cutting edge product in the world but they are consistent and are the most profitable airline in the world.

  27. VT-CIE Diamond

    Surprising that Kirby's predecessor Oscar Munoz isn't mentioned anywhere. No, I'm not expecting him to replace Kirby in the top 5 here, but he did leave behind a lasting legacy as seen in his recent book.

    1. XPL Diamond

      "I’m sticking exclusively to current airline and airline group CEOs..."

    2. VT-CIE Diamond

      I’m referring to this part: I mean, there are some former CEOs I really respect (Herb Kelleher, Gordon Bethune, etc.)
      Does Oscar Munoz belong there?

  28. Bruce Guest

    The only CEO I admire is one who engages with their employees, doesn’t take a big pay cut, accepts responsibility for problems and devolves power. So none of those you mentioned. But that’s because we admire qualities like charisma and arrogance and maybe “business acumen” rather than kindness, empathy, fairness and ethics.

    1. Jeffrey Guest

      Nobody cares because he is from a small island named Taiwan.

  29. JS Guest

    I would propose a couple of honorary mentions:
    - Martin Gauss
    - Michael O'Leary

    You might not love their products, but they just know how to go their own way and run a successful business.

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Aman Guest

I agree with all of the names on your list except one- Al Baker. He is completely tone deaf not to mention advocates inappropriate working conditions, sexism among a whole host of other agendas that are honestly at odds with today’s social values. Even from a business stand point, his outburst with Airbus was absolutely comical- it lacked substance and he was forced to eat humble pie after having many orders delayed, him having to invest into a fleet of 737 maxes that were sub-optimal for QR’s operations and most of all potentially jeopardising a relationship with arguably the most important aircraft manufacturer in the world- all for his ego. Certainly doesn’t make for a great CEO. I would rather have Ed Bastian on the list- Delta may not have the most cutting edge product in the world but they are consistent and are the most profitable airline in the world.

2
Him Guest

How about donald trump for trump shuttle? He is the 4th most intelligent leader in the world ( after Kim, Putin and Xi)

1
Ben Guest

This feels overly biased towards "CEOs of airlines with a good premium product". For running an airline overall, there's no way Air France-KLM is ahead of IAG. Whether we like the service or not, it's far more profitable and has a proper strategy via its different brands and pricing. AF-K just isn't there yet.

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