Investing in the future

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Dr Dan Wong, assistant professor for the Aviation Management Department at Prince Sultan University in Saudi Arabia, explains why there is a critical need for airports to invest in university aviation management degree programs

A number of airlines have chosen to support university aviation management degree programs as a way of ensuring a continuous supply of well-qualified college graduates for an expanding airline industry. A similar need exists for the world’s airports to attract well-qualified staff to meet the needs of a continuously growing aviation sector.

In order to successfully entice sufficient numbers of highly trained personnel to plan, operate, and manage the world’s airports, the industry needs to increase its support of existing university aviation management degree programs to produce college graduates that are trained to effectively and efficiently operate and manage the airports of the future.

Since the 1980s, airports have evolved from simply being a specialized transportation facility into fully-fledged enterprises containing architecturally distinctive structures that both house a multitude of complex systems to support airline operations, and offer the traveling public a plethora of food, beverage, shopping, and other services to ease their journey.

This transformation has significantly affected the knowledge base required by airport managers to successfully organize and manage their facilities to achieve long-term sustainability.

Initially, airport managers were simply concerned with safety-related operational functions including firefighting and rescue services, aircraft navigational aids, and runways. As airports have evolved into self-supporting enterprises, airport managers are now required to delve into other areas including, but not limited to, accounting, business development, finance, human resources, information systems, law, marketing, planning, project management, property management, real estate development, and security.

For most of the current airport management textbooks used in university aviation management programs, the focus is on explaining airports, including their management and operation, in terms of deconstructing the numerous complex systems that exist in today’s airports. While aviation management students seeking careers in airport management need to be exposed to the numerous systems that exist within today’s modern airport, there is also a critical need for these students to be introduced to the unique business aspects that form a major part of the role.

By increasing the amount of time and money invested in developing partnerships with university aviation management programs, airports can both provide assistance for research on pressing airport management issues, and influence the curriculum to better reflect the skill sets required of both current and future airport managers.

In return, airports will acquire additional resources from which to address current and future airport management issues, while having immediate access to recruit newly minted aviation management graduates who have been academically prepared to meet both current and future challenges of an increasingly complex and competitive operating environment.


Dr Dan Wong is an assistant professor in the Department of Aviation and Management at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. After spending more than 20 years performing day-to-day US airport planning and management responsibilities, he was conferred a PhD from Queensland University of Technology in Australia. He has been, and continues to be, a frequent speaker at numerous airport conferences including Passenger Terminal Expo. His current research and teaching interests include airport design, governance, operations and management.

October 6, 2016

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