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How to Become an Airport Manager: A Career Guide

Published By Team Setmycareer on Sep 20, 2023

Discover How to Become an Airport Manager

Agriculture Engineer

An airport manager is responsible for overseeing the daily operations and management of an airport. As an airport manager, you will ensure the airport runs smoothly, is safe and secure for travelers, and is compliant with all regulations. If you love aviation, enjoy managing complex operations, and want to pursue a meaningful leadership role, becoming an airport manager could be an excellent career path for you. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to become an airport manager.

Career Highlights of an Airport Manager

  • Meaningful work in a dynamic industry that keeps society connected. Air travel impacts millions of lives.
  • Opportunity to apply business, leadership, and project management skills in a specialized setting. No two days will be the same.
  • Chance to oversee complex airport systems and operations with a bird's eye view. Airport managers get to be at the center of all the action.
  • Potential to earn an attractive salary with experience. The average annual pay for airport managers is $105,750 per year.
  • Ability to work amongst passionate aviation professionals who also love the industry. Most airport staff have a deep appreciation for their work.
  • Responsibility and autonomy in ensuring passenger safety and security day-to-day. Airport managers have a direct hand in protecting the lives of travelers.
  • Variety in projects and initiatives to improve the passenger experience and airport operations long-term. You will constantly work on impactful projects.
  • Opportunity to lead and mentor teams of airport personnel across departments. People management is a key aspect of the job.

The exciting nature of the airport environment combined with far-reaching responsibility make an airport management career uniquely rewarding. It's perfect for natural leaders who thrive under pressure.

Work Environment of an Airport Manager

Airport managers typically work full-time office hours with additional evenings, weekends, and overnight shifts as needed. The job often requires meetings and coordination outside of regular business hours due to 24/7 airport operations.

The office setting is generally an airport control tower, administrative building, or emergency operations center. Time is also spent inspecting airfields, terminals, and other airport facilities regularly. Airport managers collaborate closely with upper management and interface with personnel in areas like maintenance, security, airline carriers, concessions, ground transportation, and more.

Strong communication and relationship-building skills are essential. The environment can be fast-paced with no shortage of daily fires to put out. The role carries significant responsibility for ensuring airport certification standards, regulatory compliance, emergency preparedness, and general passenger safety.

The airport manager must be comfortable managing multifaceted operations, coordinating cross-functional teams, and making high-stakes decisions under pressure. Extensive leadership capability and a cool head are must-haves for success.

Learn About How To Become An Airport Operations Specialist

Skills Needed to Be an Airport Manager

To excel as an airport manager, the following skills and competencies are important:

  • Leadership ability - strong capacity to direct teams, motivate employees, delegate effectively, and lead by example
  • Communication skills - ability to convey vision, expectations, and feedback clearly to various audiences
  • Problem-solving - ability to analyze complex situations and implement effective solutions
  • Project management - ability to juggle multiple stakeholders and initiatives simultaneously
  • Commercial awareness - understanding of business principles, economics, and revenue optimization
  • Technical knowledge - functional understanding of airport operations and systems
  • Emergency preparedness - ability to spearhead crisis planning and make levelheaded decisions in emergency scenarios
  • Multi-tasking - competence managing numerous responsibilities and priorities
  • Team building - competence fostering collaboration, managing conflicts, and getting the best from people
  • Stress management - ability to operate calmly and determinedly under high-stakes situations

A natural leader who can build relationships, communicate effectively, and make smart executive decisions will thrive as an airport manager.

Steps to Becoming an Airport Manager

If an airport management career appeals to you, here are the main steps to landing this role:

  1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  2. A 4-year bachelor's degree is typically the minimum education required to become an airport manager. Relevant majors include aviation management, business administration, finance, economics, marketing, public administration, or transportation logistics. Coursework should cover areas like operations, business, management, and regulatory compliance.

  3. Gain Industry Experience
  4. Airport managers generally need experience working in an airport setting before stepping into a management role. Seek entry-level jobs in airport operations, maintenance, planning, administration, customer service, or communications to build up your aviation resume. Having cross-functional airport experience is hugely valuable.

  5. Obtain an Airport Management Certificate
  6. Many employers prefer candidates who have completed airport management certificate training. Look into aviation-specific management programs offered by colleges, universities, and industry associations. These courses will arm you with specialized expertise in airport operations, security, emergency protocols, and regulatory issues.

  7. Join AAEA
  8. Joining the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) provides excellent professional development, networking, and career opportunities. The AAAE offers conferences, seminars, certifications, mentoring programs, job boards, and industry connections that can help fast track your management career.

  9. Apply for Airport Management Positions
  10. Once you have a solid education, airport experience, and management training, start applying for assistant manager or manager-in-training roles. These transitional jobs let you gain on-the-job management experience before moving into head airport management positions.

With 5-10 years of accumulated airport expertise, you will become a strong candidate for top airport manager vacancies. Continue growing your skillset and network to achieve your long-term career goals.

Key Interview Tips

When interviewing for airport management jobs, expect questions that assess your leadership skills, communication abilities, technical competence, and background. Come prepared to discuss:

  • How you resolved specific work conflicts or challenges
  • Time you had to motivate others or improve team performance
  • Knowledge of airport operations, infrastructure, and compliance
  • Major projects or initiatives you managed from start to finish
  • Reasons you want to manage an airport specifically
  • Ways you would enhance the passenger experience
  • Your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and manager
  • How you have built relationships with key decision makers and stakeholders
  • How you would handle emergency scenarios or crises
  • Knowledge of industry health and safety best practices
  • New ideas and innovations you would introduce
  • How you have optimized processes and performance in past roles

Put thought into compiling clear and compelling responses that convey your leadership competence, collaborative nature, airport operations knowledge, and change management abilities. Come with specific anecdotes that showcase your readiness to take the reins as an airport manager.

What to Include in Your Airport Manager CV

When constructing your CV to apply for airport management positions, be sure to highlight:

  • Educational background - aviation degrees, management certificates, and relevant training
  • Specific airport roles and responsibilities held
  • Notable aviation projects delivered from start to finish
  • Achievements improving airport operations, costs, or revenues
  • Leadership and people management experience
  • Safety and security protocols knowledge
  • Crisis response and emergency management experience
  • Technologies and systems expertise
  • Compliance and quality assurance contributions
  • Customer service and passenger experience enhancements
  • Public speaking engagements and presentations
  • Professional development and continuing education
  • Relevant awards and recognitions
  • AAAE membership and involvement
  • Volunteer work and community initiatives

Quantifying your management experience and concrete airport contributions will make your CV stand out. Also articulate your core leadership traits and people-centric outlook. This will portray you as the ideal candidate to manage both the airport operations and teams.

Moving Up the Ranks as an Airport Manager

As an aspiring airport manager, you can further your career by:

  • Taking on special projects that increase your leadership visibility
  • Volunteering for airport emergency response and safety committees
  • Publishing articles on airport operations in industry journals
  • Presenting at AAAE airport management conferences and events
  • Completing AAAE's Certified Member Program
  • Securing AAAE accreditation in areas like operations, security, finance, and customer service
  • Participating in AAAE's Airport Management Professionals Accreditation Programme
  • Completing an MBA focusing on aviation management
  • Transitioning into assistant manager or junior manager roles
  • Expressing interest in airport GM positions to your superiors
  • Applying for airport manager roles at progressively larger airports
  • Joining aviation industry advisory councils and think tanks

Continually expand your expertise, development, and professional network to climb the airport management ladder over your career.


Becoming an airport manager allows you to blend business leadership abilities with a passion for aviation. Airport managers get the thrill of steering dynamic airport operations while protecting the safety and experience of countless travelers. If you have the heart of a leader, sharp business acumen, people skills, and technical competence, look to step into this fulfilling and exciting management career. With the right education, experience, and drive, you have an open runway ahead to become an airport manager.



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