Kuala Lumpur – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) honored Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew with its Global Aviation Leadership Award (GALA) at the 65th IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit which opened today in Kuala Lumpur.

The IATA GALA was established in 2002 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. It is given to outstanding individuals for exceptional contributions that have helped shape air transport.

“Air transport has been built by the hard work of women and men who have been able to turn dreams into reality. We have a rich history of truly amazing people with vision, passion and great leadership. It is a privilege to honor Minister Mentor Lee with a GALA that recognizes the great contribution his political leadership and foresight has made to global aviation,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“Minister Mentor Lee’s unique vision and leadership founded one of our industry’s strongest carriers and most efficient airports. This became a shining example of how aviation—with effective government policies—has played an important role in building the foundations of a country respected for its efficiency and economic achievements. His unwavering commitment to liberalization and free market principles was ahead of its time in 1972. These are principles that are critical to the industry’s development even today. We need more leaders with Minister Mentor’s vision and deep understanding of aviation and the economic benefits that it catalyzes,” said Bisignani.

“To Minister Mentor Lee, operating an airline just to show the flag on the tail was not an option. The airline had to be competitive and self-supporting or be shut down. This has shaped Singapore Airlines into a commercial success without government assistance,” said Bisignani.

Minister Mentor Lee’s approach to industry regulation was similarly visionary. Under his leadership, Singapore implemented an aviation policy based on free and open competition, positioning Singapore as an important hub for global aviation. Singapore’s Changi Airport is among the most efficient airports in the world and has received multiple IATA Eagle Awards.

Minister Mentor Lee is only the third GALA recipient. The first GALA was awarded in 2003 to Dr Assad Kotaite for his outstanding service as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council President for more than 30 years. The second GALA was awarded in 2005 to Minister Yang Yuanyuan of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for his strong vision and leadership on progressive liberalization in aviation.

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Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic.