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Airport Operations Manager Career Profile

Worldwide demand for air travel is rising.

More people are traveling on global airlines than in years past with no sign of slowing down. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 3.7 billion passengers were recorded in 2016, a 6.3% increase over 2015, which is ahead of the average annual growth rate of 5.5%. Emerging markets and new model airlines, including low-cost carriers, are key contributors to industry growth.

With global air travel numbers increasing, career opportunities in aviation are also expected to grow. Airport executive and Florida Tech alumnus John Tiliacos says,

“Whether it’s managing an airport or it’s managing an airline or flying for an air carrier, it’s an extraordinarily exciting and great field to be in. There is never a dull day in this business”

One exciting and essential job in the aviation industry is airport operations manager.

What is an Airport Operations Manager?

Airport operations managers are crucial to an airport’s airside operations and maintenance objectives in ensuring safe and effective air travel for passengers and freight. An airport operations manager is responsible for organizing and directing all airport operations and overseeing maintenance programs for airport facilities. These professionals also oversee safety and security functions and ensure airports meet all relevant federal and state operational and regulatory aviation regulations.

The opportunities are diverse and the responsibilities may vary as an airport operations manager. Although he is now the Vice President of Operations and Customer Service at Tampa International Airport, as a general manager at several airports during his career, Tiliacos says he managed food and beverage operations, directed cabin design and in-flight products, oversaw flight tower operations, led cargo operations, and spearheaded industry-leading projects to launch in-flight Wi-Fi and lie flat seats.

Duties and responsibilities include everything from overseeing security and safety functions to managing overall operations of multi-billion-dollar terminal upgrades. Professionals in this position ensure that the airport operates efficiently through planning, organizing, supervising and problem-solving.

Where are Airport Operations Managers Employed?

Airport operations managers are employed at public and private airports across the country and world. From international commercial airports to regional private airfields, professionals who are responsible for operations are needed to ensure airport logistics, safety and compliance.

As of 2016, there are more than 19,500 public and private airports in the country, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. While growth among public airports has remained the same, the number of private airports is increasing.

Potential Salary

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary data specifically for airport operations managers, general and operations managers, the category for which airport operations managers fall under, earn an average annual salary of $122,090, as of May 2016.

Because salary potential and employment opportunities may vary depending on factors such as a candidate’s education and experience, as well as regional market conditions, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research.

Education Preparation and Other Qualifications

While educational and experience requirements vary depending on the size and scope of airport operations responsibilities, a typical education requirement for this position is a bachelor’s degree in aviation management or a related field such as business management. It is common for airports to seek individuals with a variance of professional experience in airport or airline management and/or operations in addition to holding a degree.

A BA in Aviation Management can begin your career path in airport operations by providing a broad knowledge of airport management and development and practical business knowledge. Tiliacos, who graduated with his aviation management degree from Florida Tech in 1984, says it helped him “get [his] foot in the door.”

Are You a Good Fit for an Airport Operations Manager?

Airport operations managers work in complex, evolving environments across multi-agency and multifunctional teams to ensure aviation policies and procedures are followed.

If you have strong organization and leadership skills, including the ability to communicate effectively, problem-solve under pressure and work with internal and external stakeholders, you may be a good candidate for a career as an airport operations manager.

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