SriLankan Airlines receives the prestigious APEX award

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The FINANCIAL — SriLankan Airlines was awarded the Superior Achievement in Passenger Experience -Asia Pacific Region, at the APEX Awards – 2015 held in Oregon – USA, in what most consider to be the Oscars of the Airline world.

The global award presented to SriLankan Airlines, recognizes a remarkable surge in improvements made to Passenger Experiences both on-board and on-ground by the airline.

It became SriLankan Airlines’ moment of glory when the airline’s amiable Director/ CEO Rakhita Jayawardena, was invited to make a special inspirational key note presentation as the opener to the awards night, according to SriLankan Airlines.

He impressed and captivated attendees from airlines the world over with a storied account of his vision for the national carrier. “Today, we witness key touch points along the passenger journey quickly disappearing,” he began. Tickets are purchased through a computer, check-in is done on an electronic box, another magic box scans boarding passes, and it goes on. Security checks are equally inanimate. “In some airports, the only thing they do not take from you is your trouser and your shirt,” he remarks.

Mr. Jayawardena clearly won not only the hearts of the APEX EXPO attendees because of the remarkable story in improving passenger experiences as a differentiator to turn the airline around, but most importantly kept a very high benchmark for other airlines to follow in bringing back the “romance of flying” and the “excitement” in airline travel.  

In his search for a single factor to distinguish SriLankan Airlines from competition, he drew in the strengths of the culture, warmth and hospitable nature of Sri Lankans that would bring value to the airline business and provide the personal touches that are soon disappearing in aviation today.

In the official APEX website – APEX CEO Joe Leader shared his open admiration about the high scores SriLankan Airlines is suddenly getting from the industry and passengers alike  and how Mr. Jayawardena has managed to cut through the technological noise and bring the focus of passenger comfort back to good, old-fashioned values.

“I was impressed watching him swarmed by attendees,” he said. “For me his presence provided a unique perspective of a carrier that’s serving a region that feels relatively small to other players but acts in very big ways.” Leader also further stated: “I took away from it the viewpoint of how airlines of any size and scope can raise the bar on passenger experiences as easily as the major players can.”

Mr. Jayawardena also states that the Airline is focusing on the all-important simple things, “the moments of truth”. The aircraft is the biggest moment of truth, for it is at that point in a passenger journey that they engage with the brand and its people the most.

How do we recreate that wonderful experience? People these days travel for loyalty – but we want to be one step ahead. They travel with us because our movies are good, they travel with us because we are friendly; we are hospitable, our food is good; for those reasons we have got to connect with the people.”

Attention to the fine details drove the airline to broaden its in-flight IFE content catalog four-fold, to adopt Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity and to enhance its food and beverage offer. “What did you eat three days ago? You won’t remember. What did you eat on a plane two weeks ago? You will remember,” he said. SriLankan has embarked on a journey to   provide First Class service in Business Class.

SriLankan’s on-time performance in August was ranked 16th out of 50 international airlines rated by the global flight data service Flightstats. Punctuality for both arrivals and departures improved from 66 percent six months ago to the current percentage in the high 80’s, due to the relentless efforts of Mr. Jayawardena and his team.

In August 2015, they ranked 7th for on-time arrivals and departures amongst the oneworld carriers beating giants in the industry.

After accepting the APEX Award for Superior Achievement in Passenger Experience, Asia Pacific Region, in his chat with APEX Media about the qualities that make a successful airline, Mr. Jayawardena likened winning the APEX Award to receiving an Academy Award.  “The APEX awards are the Oscars of the industry, this means they are following what we’re doing, seeing what we’re doing and listening to what people are saying.”

“We at SriLankan Airlines are on a mission to get this airline from red to black, that as a personal initiative I aggressively and relentlessly pursued” he says. “This airline has lost a lot of money in the past and our focus for the next three years is to gradually improve our bottom line so that we will be profitable in year three without state funding.

This award is a tribute to the commitment and dedication of all SriLankan Airlines staff in their efforts to keep SriLankan flying higher than ever before.

Mr. Jayawardena’s closing words of his speech could not be more apt for SriLankan’s plans for the future. Quoting the famous Judy Garland he said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else”.

The Airline Passenger Experience Association is a network of the world’s leading airlines, suppliers and related companies committed to elevating the level of the airline passenger experience.

The Passenger Choice Awards were established by the Airline Passenger Experience Association to give a voice to the traveling public and to recognize airline excellence and innovation. Any member of the public can take the online survey. 

The winners are recognized at a yearly APEX Awards Ceremony that takes place at the APEX EXPO.

 

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