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-Giovanni Bisignani

yellow square Introduction

Shaking the Skies is one of those rare books that changes the way you think about an industry. The book explains the most critical decade in aviation post 9-11, taking the reader through the most dramatic moments from the man who handled $2.5 trillion, made aviation safer and greener, and introduced with e-ticketing a new way of flying.

The book presents the turnaround of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) from a silent and dusty association to a strong driver of change. Implementing renowned GE management techniques, Giovanni Bisignani shook up IATA and steered airlines through crises that ranged from 9/11 to SARS to the global economic meltdown.

Bisignani made it his mission to break up the rules of the game that had been drafted at the end of the Second World War. His achievements led to the transformation of the airline business and the travel experience. Through its safety audit, IOSA, IATA also made aviation by far the safest mode of transportation in the world. In 1946, at the beginning of the modern aviation era, there were 9 million passengers and 700 fatalities. In 2012, over 3 billion passengers flew with just 270 fatalities, all of which occurred on non-IOSA registered airlines. No IATA member airline suffered a major accident in 2012. Bisignani explains the complex process dealing with airlines and regulators that forced them to accept a complete change in safety management. Many governments worldwide have now made IOSA mandatory for its airlines.

Under Bisignani’s leadership, IATA greatly enhanced the travel experience for passengers too. Its ‘Simplifying the Business’ program eliminated 400 million paper tickets from the travel process, rolled out common-use self-service kiosks at airports and made possible online check-in and boarding passes on smartphones. The book tells the story of this revolution, from the development of the business model to 100% e-ticketing just four years later. It describes the anxious last-minute meetings and the many battles with governments and airlines that were not prepared for change on such a massive scale.

Bisignani presents a unique analysis of what happened in the immediate aftermath and the subsequent deterioration of the security checkpoint process for passengers. He championed a new risk-based security concept that looks for bad people and not just bad objects, known as “The Checkpoint of the Future”. The concept has been accepted by the United States, the European Union and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Bisignani also confronts the environmental issue head-on. Aviation has set ambitious environmental targets that surpass every other industry. Far from being the villain portrayed in the media, Bisignani clearly explains aviation’s leading role in mitigating climate change and the enormous improvements in airline environmental performance. And he engages in the critical debate on new runways with startling honesty.

Bisignani laces the complexity of changing a heavily-regulated industry with interesting and amusing stories that illustrate how the airline industry is perceived. Here calls his many meetings with world leaders and famous figures, including Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II, Medvedev, Gaddafi, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, Li Pen, Neil Armstrong, Ban ki Moon, King Hussain, and Carlos Menem to name but a few.

Shaking the Skies is the book for those who want to understand what makes this great industry tick. It is for aviation fans, business leaders and policymakers– and for anybody who wants to learn about the power of change.

Shaking the Skies

yellow square Reviews

“Shaking the Skies reinforces the importance of working together to deliver a compelling vision, employing a comprehensive strategy and using a relentless implementation process. Thank you, Giovanni, for all you have done to bring people together around the world through safe and efficient transportation!”
- Alan Mullaly, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company

“Thank you, Giovanni, for an exciting non-stop-flight through the recent history of aviation and for sharing your vision, your thoughts and your extraordinary experience with us. Your book is a must have and a must read for airliners and aviation enthusiasts!”
- Dr. Christoph Franz, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO Luhansa Group

“For a period of years, I had regarded reading IATA’s Annual Report as a possible antidote for sleeplessness. Then, things changed-it kept me awake! This transformation was caused by the selection of the hyperactive, visionary and thoroughly delightful Giovanni Bisignanias IATA’s Director General. Shaking the Skies is not only a leadership primer on how to revivify a perhaps somewhat somnolent trade association into a global changed leader but also a truly enjoyable and often amusing ‘peek behind the scenes’ at global aviation, national leaders of consequence and international negotiations. Giovanni truly set off a ‘bomb in the church’ while chanting his war cry of ‘basta’”!
- Herb Kelleher, Co-founder and former Chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines

“Giovanni takes us backstage in the airline industry in an entertaining book that details the many changes in aviation during a turbulent 10 years. It is a story for those who want not only to transform complex organizations but also understand how to implement the changes. It is not to be missed.”
- Enrique Cueto, CEO LATAM Airlines Group


yellow square About the Author

Bisignani was Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) from June 2002 to July 2011. During his time with IATA, Bisignani played a key role in reshaping the aviation industry and its governance. Whilst leading IATA, he set about modernising the industry and steered airlines through crippling global crises. He became Director General Emeritus from June 2011 until his retirement in October 2011. During his nearly 10 years with the organization, Mr. Bisignani drove major industry changes. The most important was making the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) a condition of IATA membership. This contributed to a 42% improvement in safety over the period 2000-2010.

In 2004 Bisignani introduced ‘The Simplifying the Business Initiative’, which modernised the industry by improving customer convenience and reducing costs. He enhanced the travel experience for passengers by eliminating 400 million paper tickets from the travel process, whilst introducing self-service kiosks at airports and making online check-in possible. He also championed a new risk-based security concept which focused on scrutinising people rather than just objects. At his last IATA AGM in 2011, Bisignani presented the ‘Checkpoint of the Future’, a concept which has now been accepted by the United States, the European Union and the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The ‘Checkpoint of the Future’ will be introduced in phases beginning in 2014. He also publicised the work of IATA, using advocacy and lobbying in order to ensure that governments focused on long-term issues for aviation. His particular interest in the environment, led him to drive the industry to achieve carbon neutral growth by 2020 and to cut aviation’s carbon emissions in half by 2050.

Finally, Mr. Bisignani strengthened IATA’s financial clearing systems, which processed US$ 2.5 trillion during his mandate. He was also the strong voice of IATA, firmly lobbying governments to focus on long term issues affecting the viability of aviation. He was particularly outspoken on liberalization, taxation and environment.

Mr. Bisignani’s career prior to joining IATA spans several industries. Bisignani graduated from the Sapienza University of Rome and later completed his studies at the Harvard Business School. In his early professional years Bisignani worked for ENI and Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale – IRI. In 2001, he launched the European travel portal Opodo and spent five years as CEO and Managing Director of Alitalia 1989-1994. During this time he also served on the IATA Board of Governors and was Chairman of the Association of European Airlines (AEA) in 1991. Previously he has served as CEO of SM Logistics and Alitalia Airlines, Chairman of The Association of European Airlines. He was a Member of Pratt & Whitney Advisory Board and Chairman of Galileo International UK and Covia US (1993-1994), leading companies in the global travel distribution system industry. He also held directorships at Finsider, Fincantieri, Italstat, Sme, Assolombarda and was Chairman of Merzario USA (1998-2001). Mr. Bisignani began his career in New York with the First National Citibank and then held several high-level positions at the energy company ENI and with the Italian industrial conglomerate IRI Group. From 1994 to 1998, he served as President of Tirrenia di Navigazione, the largest Italian ferry company and, from 1998 to 2001, as CEO & Managing Director of SM Logistics, a group of logistics and freight forwarding companies partially owned by GE.

Currently Bisignani serves on the Board of Directors of: Safran in France; AirCastle in the United States and NATS in the United Kingdom. Additionally, Bisignani is also a visiting professor at the School of Engineering at Cranfield University.

Mr. Bisignani studied both in Italy (Università La Sapienza – Economic & Commerce School) and the United States (Harvard Business School). In June 2008, Mr. Bisignani received the honorary degree ‘Doctor of Science honoris causa’ from the School of Engineering at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society the following year. Born in Rome in 1946, he speaks Italian, English and Spanish.

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Govianni Bisignani
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