The aviation industry has a host of different career options to offer. From Airport Systems Management to Ground Handling, if you are looking to build a career in aviation, there really are a lot of options. As part of our career in aviation series, here are 4 more career options in the aviation industry.
Airport Duty Management:
Airport duty managers are responsible for overseeing all aspects of airport operations while the airport is closed. They ensure that everything is in place and ready to go when the airport opens in the morning, and they monitor conditions throughout the day to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
Airport duty managers may also be tasked with managing staff during their shifts. This includes assigning tasks to individual employees, ensuring that everyone has what they need to do their jobs effectively, resolving any issues that arise, and making sure that everyone stays safe while on the job.
Roles & Responsibilities:
- Coordinating with airlines regarding flight delays and cancellations, assisting passengers with lost luggage or other problems that may occur during travel
- Maintaining safety and security in the airport by reviewing security procedures and equipment to ensure compliance with federal regulations
- Overseeing all aspects of airport operations, including the maintenance of facilities, groundskeeping services, and cleaning crews
- Developing and enforcing procedures to ensure compliance with federal regulations, such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines regarding security measures
- Attention to detail
Airport Systems Management
Airport Systems Management or managing the airport software involves taking care of various system operations like passenger processing, arrival/departure processing, bagging, tagging and handling, information distribution and the like. For the smooth functioning of passenger and logistics systems, it is imperative that there is real-time information exchange between the airport management systems and customers, and this is the area of expertise for an Airport Operations Specialist.
Following are the various areas of operation that they look into:
1. Baggage Handling
2. Self-service check-in systems like check-in kiosks, ensuring smooth procedures for passenger check-in and all the digital help/guide that a passenger might need before boarding
3. Terminal Management
4. Billing and Invoice Operations
5. Ground-staff Management
6. Handling Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN) Systems which includes managing communication, navigation services and exchange of data. This includes safety messages, information about the weather, geographic material, traffic environment messages, communication barriers, etc. They serve as a bridge between airports and aircraft and hence fall under the airport systems management.
Roles & Responsibilities:
- Tracking weather conditions to ensure safe landing and take off
- Providing assistance to passengers in need like assisting them to the gate or helping them with their luggage
- Conducting pre-flight checks on aircraft systems and equipment to ensure they are operational, safe, and meet federal standards
- Maintaining records of flight operations activities such as aircraft maintenance schedules, flight plans, and cargo manifests
- Problem-solver and a good observer
Does your airport experience feel like a 5 star hotel stay?
Airports offer similar services and processes to hotels such as check-in, restaurants, shops, lounges and waiting areas, however, few passengers will compare their airport experience to a stay in five-star hotel. Airport operators often fail to see themselves being part of the hospitality industry, preferring to focus on infrastructure and process management, optimizing efficiency and capacity of their operations.
There are some structural and historical reasons for this misalignment of vision between the end customers of airports and the airport operators. A major difference with hotels is that airports usually enjoy a monopolistic situation and passenger volumes having strongly increased in the last 20 pre-covid years, without a growth in the number of suppliers. Hence airports have naturally tended to focus their attention on managing the growth rather than creating it.
As companies, airport operators have usually five priorities in their activity:
- Managing the political environment/local communities
- Compliance to regulations (safety, environmental, health)
- Managing processes & infrastructure capacity
- Running a profitable business
- Offering an adequate level of passenger experience
While passenger experience is definitely part of the top five priorities, it rarely makes it to the very top.
The benefits of embracing a hospitality mindset
Achieving the switch in priorities is complicated but definitely worth the time and money. Several research studies have illustrated that increased passenger satisfaction has a direct impact on the amount spent in restaurants and shops. Airports that have been able to improve satisfaction levels by 0.1 (on a 1 to 5 scale) have on average benefited from an increase of 0.8 USD in their non-aeronautical revenue per departing passenger. For a mid-sized airport, this represents annual recurring net-revenues of 10 million USD which is quite a significant impact to their bottom-line.
While most airports agree on the importance of passenger satisfaction, few will be ready to allocate sufficient funding and resources to allow improvements to be felt by passengers. Research has shown a positive return on investment on passenger experience, however, the investments need to be clearly allocated in the areas that matter the most to passengers.
How to improve passenger experience?
The most successful airports in terms of passenger experience have put in a lot of effort to understand the needs of their passengers and realized that they didn’t need to be perfect at every step of the passenger journey. To improve passenger experience, they first identified the services that had the most impact on the overall airport experience, then used their limited resources and budget on hospitality-minded initiatives on these first priority services.
Airport services can be grouped in three main categories based on its importance to the overall airport experience:
To improve passenger experience, airport operators should first focus their efforts on the “Fundamentals”; only when passenger expectations are met in these areas one can focus on the next category of services. Two important areas in this category are “Cleanliness” and “Sense of Security” which take on a new dimension with the pandemic. While pre-covid, the focus was mostly on the general cleanliness of the infrastructure and the physical security checks, this has changed in the last few months. These areas now also include the compliance of the airport to hygiene measures and this will remain a key part of the passenger experience in the future.
After having met the passenger expectations in the first category, the priority then shifts to the “Key Processes” (i.e., processes related to the actual journey) to design and manage a stress-free experience. Only after optimal service levels are achieved in the first two categories of services should efforts focus on providing “Extra” services (shops, bars,eateries) adapted to the needs of the passengers, the available dwell time and individual budget.
A common miscalculation in new airport developments is to strongly focus on the “Extra” services (commercial development) which proves not to be as beneficial as expected as the fundamental factors and the key processes have not put the passenger into a spending mood.
Focus on hospitality
Passenger experience remains one of the main areas that airport operators can deliver significant improvements and thus create additional revenues. This can be done, as illustrated by some leading airports, by understanding the needs of their customers, then identifying the key areas where to focus the efforts, and finally, becoming hospitality experts to create in these areas the airport experience that exceeds the passenger’s expectations.
Roles & Responsibilities:
- Ensuring high standard customer service and to be available whenever required
- Developing and maintaining excellent relationships and open communication with internal and external departments
- Ensuring smooth in-flight experience for passengers and attending their requests (if any) immediately
- Excellent fluency in languages spoken
- Effective teamwork
- Physical fitness
- Friendly personality
Aircraft Maintenance Management
Ensuring and daily tracking of flight safety is essential. The maintenance of aircraft in order to ensure safe and correct functioning during flight, repairing flight defects is what aircraft maintenance management is all about. Here the key person responsible is the Aircraft Maintenance Manager.
Roles & Responsibilities:
- Make a report of flight equipment needed and ensure everything is in check
- Perform aircraft servicing, equipment installation, track any defects
- Plan and schedule aircraft maintenance procedures
- Ensure aircraft maintenance is performed in compliance with federal regulations and while maintaining industry standards
- Excellent vision
- Attention to minute details
- Physical fitness
- Expert at using tools to ensure proper repairing
- Sense of responsibility