Airport Manager Career Profile

In the next two decades, aviation is expected to take off, doubling the current number of air travelers by 2036, according to estimates from the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) latest 20-Year IATA Passenger Forecast. The IATA estimates the passenger count will reach 7.8 billion in the next 20 years, and while the surge is a good indication of innovation and general prosperity, it’s also a sign that the aviation industry and its regulating government need to ramp up. For professionals seeking airport management jobs, this means preparing for a market expected to explode.

What Do Airport Managers Do?

An airport manager’s overall job is to ensure continuously safe and efficient operations at the airport, both for its users, and its facilities. In practice, this can include:

  • Developing, implementing and communicating goals, objectives, policies and priorities for airport programs that include airport equipment and aircraft maintenance, grounds security and customer service.
  • Ensuring safety, compliance and overall maintenance of the airport
  • Addressing sensitive customer questions or issues
  • Supporting staff on boards and commissions
  • Attending and participating in professional group meetings
  • Understanding new trends and innovations in aviation as a field
  • Collaborating with city departments and external agencies to negotiation or resolve issues
  • Assessing produces and processes for efficiency and effectiveness across word loads, support systems, and internal reporting.
  • Preparing and ensuring airport adheres to budget
  • Supervising and mentoring staff
  • Partnering with federal and/or state aviation committees to establish rules and regulations that govern airport business and security
  • Upholding quality standards, including on-time schedules, error free service, and proper baggage handling
  • Uphold quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) practices

Airport managers should expect to work in a variety of environments, ranging from an office space to outdoor environments as part of overseeing all airport practices. In the course of a single day, an airport manager may walk the terminal, interact with passengers in the airport, facilitate a high-profile flight and attend a team meeting. The next day may be entirely different.

Educational Requirements for Airport Managers

The size of the airport will dictate specific educational requirements; however, professional airport managers often pursue bachelor’s degrees in airport or aviation management, business administration, or aeronautical or civil engineering. Candidates can boost their ability to compete for jobs with an Air Traffic Control (ATC) concentration, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved program.

Experience as an assistant airport manager, pilot certification or other associate airport services experiences can also help equip aspiring airport managers. In many cases, an assistant airport manager is also expected to have earned a bachelor’s degree.

Professionals should consider what type of experience they want in a first role, as airport size may dictate responsibilities. For example, an entry-level airport manager at a small airport may take on a broader list of duties, whereas a larger airport may have fewer roles but more visible responsibilities.

Soft Skills Required for Airport Managers

To effectively manage an airport, airport managers must be able to work with people across an array of disciplines, from maintenance and security to city officials and airport passengers. They need a blend of compassion and flexibility to navigate the relationship aspect, coupled with a business acumen and unflinching ability to make decisions. Some specific, valuable soft skills include:

  • Interpersonal communication – to inspire teams, build rapport and engage with customers
  • Conflict resolution – to properly address conflicts with other stakeholders and customers
  • Leadership – to inspire airport staff to meet objectives, maintain a safe environment and innovate
  • Organizational skills – to manage and coordinate operational areas
  • Creativity – to empower teams to find creative solutions
  • Self-motivation – to take initiative, drive decisions and push for results
  • Integrity – To act as a role model for staff and to guide interactions and decisions for staff and customers
  • Ability to multi-task – to stay on top of multiple, concurrent tasks and objectives

For more information on aviation careers, check out our aviation management career guide here.

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