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SIA CEO is first S-E Asian to receive coveted BCIU award

Singapore Airlines chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong has landed a much-coveted award for transforming the carrier to better compete in an increasingly tough environment.

Mr Goh was conferred the Dwight D. Eisenhower Global Innovation Award by the US-based Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) at a gala dinner in New York on Monday night - the first time the award has been presented to a recipient from South-east Asia.

In honouring him, the non-profit group - dedicated to forging relationships and promoting dialogue between government and business communities across the globe - said Mr Goh "is a visionary whose transformational leadership has elevated and energised both the company's brand as well as its people".

The award is modelled after the late US president's global view of commercial diplomacy.

Past recipients include football legend Pele and Mr Ratan Tata from India's Tata Trusts.

BCIU president Peter Tichansky said: "Goh Choon Phong, characteristic of BCIU's Eisenhower honourees, is an exemplary leader who has changed his industry through the courage of his convictions."

Faced with growing threats from full-service airlines in the premium business, and budget carriers in the regional space, SIA launched its mid- and long-haul budget carrier, Scoot, which started flying in 2012.

Under Mr Goh's stewardship, SIA has also struck many partnerships with other full-service airlines such as Lufthansa, to expand its global reach and network.


SIA also has a 49 per cent stake in New Delhi-based Vistara, which launched its first flight last year.

Airline veteran J. Y. Pillay, who also attended the New York event, said he first met Mr Goh 25 years ago.

Back then, he was SIA chairman and Mr Goh was appointed as his staff assistant - a position typically reserved for promising officers.

In introducing Mr Goh at the awards dinner, Mr Pillay said: "The assignment was for a year, presumably because by the end of it, the poor fellow would be too exhausted to continue. A baptism of fire."

And they have kept in touch, even after Mr Pillay left SIA.

Mr Pillay said: "I must confess that in those early days I was not sharp enough, or perspicacious enough, to realise he had a CEO's baton in his briefcase.

"But as the years rolled by, I began to sense (he) was maturing fast, and there was a hint of greater things to come."

Receiving the award, Mr Goh said he was proud to accept it on behalf of SIA's 25,000 employees worldwide.

He said: "This award is genuinely about much more than any one individual... (we) must always ensure we give people a good reason to fly on us."

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