Developing the airport leaders of the future

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At Passenger Terminal Conference this year, Dr Dan Wong developed and moderated a session on how academia and the airport industry can better work collaboratively to prepare future airport leaders. Here he summarizes the discussion.

Future airport leaders must understand that airports are no longer a simple intermodal transportation facility. The airport now constitutes a very complicated business enterprise that is mutually intertwined with other businesses (for instance, airlines, concessions and tenants) to economically support itself, as well as bolstering the economies of the surrounding area.

Future airport leaders must be keenly aware of and understand the internal and external economic, political, social, and even technological conditions that will likely have an impact on the airport as a successful business.

Airports’ increasing focus on the passenger experience will require future airport leaders to be sufficiently technically savvy to effectively utilize current and emerging technologies to improve the efficiency and quality of airport operations.

Future airport leaders must possess ‘soft skills’ in addition to their technical skills, in order to interact effectively with airport patrons, staff and other stakeholders, to support the development and implementation of airport programs worldwide.

Continuous education through highly focused short courses will be required of future airport leaders, so that they keep up with the internal and external changes that airports will invariably experience over time in a challenging and dynamic airport operating environment.

Finally, academia and the airport industry need to increase their collaborative efforts to ensure that airport management and aviation management programs are kept up-to-date, so that graduates are appropriately trained.

 Participants in the session included: Scott Gibbons, vice president – business administration, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport; Catherine Phillips, intelligent automation manager, Heathrow Airport; and Keith Mason, professor of air transport management and head of Cranfield University’s Center for Air Transport Management.

Dan Wong is deputy head of department – transportation and logistics, Modern College of Business and Science (Sultanate of Oman).

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