In December 2021, Nicola McMullen, aviation director at Leeds Bradford Airport, was named one of the Women to Watch by WiHTL, the collaboration community devoted to increasing diversity and inclusion across hospitality, travel and leisure. Here, McMullen talks about what the accolade means and how she’ll promote diversity in aviation
When did you begin your career in aviation?
My journey began working for First Choice Holidays, before spending five years at Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) as a slot coordinator. After a period with Airport Strategy & Marketing (ASM) as an aviation consultant, I moved to Manchester Airport Group, holding roles in strategy, aviation development and as commercial director for over nine years before joining Leeds Bradford Airport in my current role as aviation director.
Why did the industry attract you?
I’ve been fascinated by air travel since I was a child; airports have given me many happy memories over the years. Throughout my career, I’ve never been able to imagine a life working outside of the industry I love. I genuinely believe aviation is something that’s in your DNA.
What does your role at Leeds Bradford entail?
I was appointed aviation director as part of a wider reorganization of the airport’s senior commercial team. I work with airlines and colleagues to facilitate future growth at LBA, leading the development of new and exciting routes to destinations across Europe and beyond.
What is the best part of your job?
I love that no two days are the same. My job allows me to work with many people from all over the world – from different backgrounds and cultures – and visit some of the most amazing places. It’s truly gratifying to see the impact that our success as an airport, in conjunction with our airline partners, has on our customers in our local and regional catchment.
How does it feel being named one of WiHTL’s Women to Watch?
I’m delighted to be featured alongside so many other fantastic role models within the industry who will no doubt inspire the next generation of leaders. I look forward to continuing to fly the flag for women in aviation.
How will you use the title to encourage more diversity in aviation?
As the lead on the Diversity & Inclusion program with Leeds Bradford Airport, it is vital for me to promote inclusivity in the industry. The visibility of underrepresented groups in businesses helps give a holistic voice that represents the minority. Any doubts the younger generation may face about entering new roles in any industry will be eased if similar role models are visible to them.
Why do you think aviation is a great career choice for women, and why do you think there are so few women in senior roles such as yours?
Aside from being incredibly exciting, the aviation industry is both challenging and rewarding with many opportunities for progression. It’s consistently evolving and open to change. Recognizing the strengths a diverse workforce brings is crucial, but from experience, this is something that sadly is frequently overlooked. Currently, the industry is male dominated; however, it has seen significant improvement over recent years. With more and more women choosing to work in the industry, I hope increased representation inspires and attracts more women into aviation in the future.
Read more about Nicola McMullen’s award here