Airport operations manager

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Linda is one of a team of terminal duty managers (TDMs) at Manchester airport, a job that calls for a calm approach in a crisis. She is responsible for ensuring that all the work operations inside the terminal buildings run smoothly.

How would you outline your role?

I'm a focal point for everyone who works in, or visits, the terminal, from airline staff and service partners, to the travelling public. I help solve problems, deal with customer complaints and make sure we're meeting all the right standards, from high levels of customer service through to complying with health and safety legislation.

Do you have a set daily work routine?

Every day is different. The first thing I do is get a brief from the duty manager I am taking over from about anything that's happened and anything unusual that might be coming up, such as VIPs visiting the airport. Then there are daily meetings with the management team and also with the duty police inspector and security duty manager.

My main responsibility is overseeing the terminal, anticipating any potential problems – mainly from a safety and security point of view – and ensuring that the customers are happy.

What problems can occur?

Sometimes, flights may divert to our airport and I'll have to make sure all the relevant people know and that we are ready to handle the extra passengers. Aircraft emergencies, fire alarms going off, security scares – anything that happens or affects the terminal is ultimately my responsibility.

What hours do you work?

I work 12.5-hour shifts, generally four days on and five off. The shifts are either 6.30am to 7.00pm, or 6.30pm to 7.00am.

What is your working environment like?

I am walking around the terminals most of the time, but also spend time in my office catching up on paperwork. The office is light, roomy and pleasant to work in.

Who do you work with?

I have dealings with nearly everyone at the airport at some time or another, and am direct line manager to the airport's customer service advisors. I also work closely with the other TDMs and management teams at all the airport's terminals.

What special skills or qualities do you need for your job?

You need to be an excellent communicator and to be able to deal persuasively but sensitively with customers, as well as employees and other partners at the airport, such as the companies that run the shops and catering outlets. Part of my role is to manage staff, so I need to be a good leader and able to motivate people.

What training have you received?

I started work at Luton Airport and completed numerous training programmes on airline specific areas, as well as general customer service and management skills. When I came to Manchester I had further training in airport security.We all receive training on a regular basis to keep up to date with industry issues.

Do you use any tools or equipment?

I use computers, CCTV (closed-circuit television) and a mobile phone, pager and radio to keep in touch with colleagues.

What do you like/dislike about your job? I enjoy most aspects of my job although early morning starts in the winter can be hard. On a shift system, you have to be prepared to put your social life on hold too. It can also be frustrating when you have to deal with situations over which you have little or no influence, such as luggage that goes astray. I'm often confronted with upset passengers even though I'm trying to sort things out for them.

What are the particular challenges in your work?

The need to take immediate action in emergency situations – there's no time for hesitation when safety or security is involved. But although these situations can be stressful, it can also be rewarding to lead a team through a major disruption or an emergency situation.

Linda's operations manager tip

  • Don't be afraid to start in any role at the airport to gain experience and see what's available.

Linda's route to her career as a Airport operations manager

  • Degree in Human Biology.
  • Temporary job at Luton airport.
  • Full-time work as a check in agent, and then supervisor and station controller for EasyJet.
  • Moved to Manchester airport to become TDM.

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Salary information for an Airport operations manager

  • Terminal duty managers earn around £32,000, rising to a maximum of approximately £40,000 with experience.

Becoming an Airport operations manager

  • The most common route to becoming a TDM is to work up through other positions in an airport, such as customer services assistant or a specific role with an airline.
  • There are no set academic qualifications but applicants must have a thorough knowledge and experience of how an airport operates. Increasingly, airlines expect some GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) including English and mathematics.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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