Working as a Flight operations manager

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James is head of operations control and performance for Flybe at Exeter International airport. He entered the job after doing a degree followed by experience gained in various other roles for the airline.

What are your main responsibilities?

I have two main areas of responsibility. I am responsible for the day-to-day running of our operations control centre. This is the office where we monitor the aircraft, ensuring that they are running on time, and deal with any problems that arise during the day, such as bad weather. As well as looking after aircraft, I am responsible for allocating all the pilots and cabin crew to the various aircraft. I ensure that they are all available to operate the flights.

What about time-keeping quality control?

In addition, I take care of the punctuality performance of the airline. This means I have to monitor and examine all the punctuality statistics regularly. If I see an issue developing, I must liaise with the relevant department to bring about an improvement.

What does your day involve?

I hold a meeting each morning with my staff to discuss the previous day's operation and identify any issues.We review the first wave of departures of that morning to see if there are any problems that are likely to impact on the rest of the day and cause any delays. Throughout the day, I deal with various issues relating to the operation of the airline, such as air traffic control, the weather, the IT systems we use and any other issues.

I also answer queries from staff and passengers. Later in the afternoon, we have another meeting to review how the day has progressed.

What hours are you on duty?

I am usually in the office by 8.30am and leave at around 6.00pm. However, given the nature of my job, I must be available on my mobile phone 24 hours a day.

Where do you work?

I work in an office next to the airport in a general office building with large windows, so I can see the airfield. I have my own room and report to the logistics director. The office block is shared by other department heads covering ground and cabin services, for instance.

What training have you had?

I have attended numerous in-house training courses. I have also been on a management skills course, which was organised externally. I've attended a slot co-ordination course to learn how to manage flight scheduling with the aim of making the most of airport capacity.

What skills must you have?

When working in an operations department, good communication skills are essential. Time is critical, so the ability to work to deadlines is important. Specifically, it is important to have a good understanding of how flights are processed at an airport.

I spent five years working in a live airport environment, which proved to be good experience for my current role.

What do you like about your work?

An airport is an interesting place to work as it is a busy place with lots of people doing a wide range of jobs. In addition, it is good to be part of a team and rewarding to be working for a developing company.

What are the challenges in your work?

When flights are running late, we need to find solutions to minimise delays for our passengers. This can be especially difficult when disruptions occur that are out of our control, such as bad weather causing aircraft to be grounded.

James's route to becoming a Flight operations manager

  • Degree in European Business Studies and French.
  • Worked in various roles at Flybe – reservations, ticket desk work and duty management.
  • Transferred to head office.
  • Present position as head of operations control and performance.

James's operations manager tips

  • Be prepared to start at the bottom and gain valuable experience on your way up.
  • Be prepared to work long and unsocial hours.

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Flight operations manager salary

  • With experience, a duty manager can expect to earn around £25,000. This rises with progression into the higher managerial positions with an earning potential of up to £50,000.
  • Salaries for flight operations assistants can start at around £12,000.

Becoming a Flight operations manager

  • The best way to get into operations management is to work your way up from a position such as crewing or operations assistant, then on to controller, duty manager and finally the higher managerial positions.
  • Generally, airlines expect applicants for operations assistant roles to have some GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) in English and mathematics.
  • Training involves both technical instruction in flight operations, IT systems and management training.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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