Airports are like small cities. Even the smallest airports are still bustling hubs of activity, with a constant flow of passengers, a variety of staff members, retail and food outlets, and any number of additional worries.
That means becoming an airport manager is going to require some strong and clearly defined skills. As well as the daily running of an airport, the manager will also have to work hard to enforce FAA rules and regulations.
There’s a lot of responsibility involved, but it remains a dream job for many. If you’re thinking of taking the next step in your career and you’re interested in the pros and cons of airport management, here’s what you need to know.
Overseeing the daily operations of an airport can be a very complex role. As well as adhering to FAA regulations, the average airport manager will need to :
- Negotiate contracts and leases
- Devise operating procedures
- Monitor expenditures
- Coordinate any renovations or constructions
- Work closely with municipal officials
There are a lot of responsibilities. Alongside the daily tasks that make up the majority of duties for an airport manager, they are often expected to be on call as well, so that unexpected issues or any emergencies do not interrupt the smooth running of the transportation hub.
That’s why most airport managers will have some prior experience in the industry. They often start as operations agents, where they will have had similar duties. No matter the route that you take to becoming an airport manager, the critical skills that you need include:
- Personnel Management
- In-depth knowledge of the aviation industry
- Negotiation skills
- High awareness of regulatory compliances
- Adept at PR
With such a wide range of duties, the successful airport manager should also look at developing their skills regarding:
- Human resources management
- Business development
If you manage to successfully land the role of airport manager in a smaller airport, then you may have additional duties. This can include tasks like running repair stations, organizing flight lessons, supervising airfields, or even selling fuel. Administration tasks will also be demanding, no matter the size or scale of the airport.
The good news is that due to considerable growth in both business travel and tourism, the outlook is looking very promising for those that succeed in becoming an airport manager.
According to research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for general and operations managers in the airline industry is expected to grow by as much as 5.5% leading up to 2024.
A degree is usually considered the bare minimum in terms of necessary education if you want to become an airport manager. However, that degree can take a variety of forms.
A Business Administration degree will be useful, although there are also degrees specifically for aviation management. Due to strong demand, high earnings, and the level of prestige that comes with being the manager of a busy airport, competition is often very strong.
That’s why having additional education can only be positive. Find out more online about options like a Masters in Business Administration to complement your current levels of education.
Now that courses such as these are available online, you can even structure your timetable around your existing responsibilities. The more rounded and the higher your education level, the more chance that you will stand out when it comes to the interview stage.
Some airport managers will come from military or airline personnel backgrounds, and it’s not rare to find that professional pilots often transition into management positions.
Tips For Success
There are some additional things that you can do if you want to improve your chances of becoming an airport manager.
- Internships are beneficial, and many large airports have well established and highly regarded professional internship programs available. These are open to applicants of all kinds. If your nearest airport has no such program, that doesn’t mean that they don’t accept interns. Even if they never have before, it might just be because nobody has asked.
- Learning to fly should definitely be high on your list of additional skills to develop. Airport managers are becoming expected to have some understanding of the responsibilities and skills of a pilot, and the best way to do that is to learn to fly yourself. This skill alone can be a major advantage when it comes to interviews.
Large vs. Small Airports
Your duties will differ depending on the size of the airport that you operate. There are some advantages to starting small.
In a smaller airport, you can expect there to be more in the way of entry-level positions and responsibilities. Larger airports may seem like they will be harder, but the fact is that in a larger facility, your responsibilities will be narrowed down and focused on set tasks.
In a smaller airport, you will be expected to wear many more hats. Starting small is often a good opportunity to find out whether airport management is for you, but whether you start at a smaller airport or launch straight into management positions at a larger airport, you will eventually get more of a successful career path by moving into larger airport locations.
Most people lean into airport management careers due to a love of aviation. Others are drawn by the attractive salaries on offer. These salaries can vary wildly depending on the size and location of an airport.
The average median wage for an airport manager in the US is $72,621 per annum. However, this can vary by quite a margin. Some airport managers in Pennsylvania are earning an estimated $195,000 per year, while airport managers in Illinois are reported to be making an average of $68,220 per year.
However, many airport managers spend some years in the position and then retire to become consultants. This can lead to significantly higher earnings.
With high wages and the prestige that comes from the position, it’s no wonder that competition is always tight when looking at a career in airport management.
For those that have the dedication to get the experience and the relevant qualifications, this could be a dream career that comes with a lot of satisfaction on top of all that responsibility.