Response to NATA’s Blog on “How To Fire Your Airport Manager”

What a place Iceland is. Some of the most beautiful waterfalls, glaciers, terrain and landscapes I’ve ever seen. Yesterday we visited a lagoon filled with blue water and icebergs. Last night we went back there to watch a fireworks show over the icebergs. Impressive. Then on the way home we saw the Northern Lights!

It is a great place to relax. But the relaxation was interrupted when I was sent a really horrible article written by Jim Coyne, President of the National Air Transport Association (NATA). NATA represents fixed base operators among others.

Now there are some legitimate differences of views on some issues between airports and FBO’s; but an effort to better understand each other’s perspectives is the best way forward. Indeed, we hosted two key FBO leaders at our small airports conference this summer.  I am meeting with another Thursday in my office and we have a panel on this subject set for our annual conference. This is the way to go.

In the middle of all this, Jim writes an article called “How to Fire Your Airport Manager.” Jim’s a good guy, a former congressman, but this article goes way beyond advocacy. It employs the usual technique of assuring that any airport manager literate enough to actual read the piece is not the kind of person he’s talking about (airlines have also perfected this), and then goes on to say that many airports are “petty tyrants” among other things. It gives advice on how to get rid of airport managers, presumably those who do not roll over in negotiations with FBOs. It is NOT what we need right now, indeed it damages his members efforts to ensure that their airport partners better understand their views.

The airport is a community asset; it exists to provide a connection to the air transportation system for the community. It does not exist to serve corporate needs of airlines or FBOs or anyone else; it is there to serve the economic needs of the community.

In so doing, the business imperatives of airlines, FBOs and others can be advanced, especially the well-run ones.  If it does not serve the needs of the community it is up to the community to decide whether or not to keep the manager. It is not up to the FBO providing services at the airport, especially when you consider the FBO wouldn’t be there without the airport in the first place.

So yes, let’s advocate for our members. Yes, I understand that every now and then we have to say provocative things. But let’s stay away from comparing airport managers to the likes of Papa Doc Duvalier and stay away from saying and doing things that undercut our own members’ interests. I look forward to our upcoming meetings with FBO leaders and to the ongoing effort to better understand different viewpoints.

Or do we really want airport managers trying to get FBO CEOs fired too?

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4 thoughts on “Response to NATA’s Blog on “How To Fire Your Airport Manager”

  1. Greg:
    Thanks for alerting me to Jim’s blog. I wouldn’t have read it otherwise. After doing so I’m puzzled as to what led to it in the first place? There weren’t any specific examples of “bad” airport managers or events that would have led to the creation of the column.

    I came away with two observations after reading it:

    * He needed a topic and finding an “us versus them” blog is good for rallying the troops and finding purpose for being an NATA member.

    * There should be a word count limit on blogs.

    Paul

  2. Ah let’s see Greg. Jim used the petty dictator phrase. But you just ramped this up yourself by substituting .. “comparing airport managers to the likes of Papa Doc Duvalier …” Just poking at your here really.

    Seriously, I commented on Jim’s blog that I have seen more than my share of those airport dictators out there. Like you, I asked what that says about the airport’s sponsor if they choose to keep such a person.

    Three potential answers came to mind. One, they don’t realize how the airport’s customers see their subordinate, two, they don’t care, or three, they are paralyzed at being able to fix the problem. None are good.

    So while I think Jim may have been looking for a little press, I think we should realize that there is no airport sponsor training program out there … at least I don’t believe there is. And there should be.

  3. Not sure what you mean by “no training program for airport sponsors.” Do you mean executives? If so, there are plenty of programs offered by ACI-NA, ACI World, AAAE and others; in addition to some terrific undergraduate and graduate level programs at colleges and universities. If you mean the airport boards, ACI-NA has an active program designed to educate airport board members

    If you mean the communities themselves, then it seems somewhat arrogant to suggest that communities need “training.”

    I do understand that airport managers and FBO executives have to make a greater effort to understand each others views. It seems you might beieve this effort needs be only a one way street. By the time this is posted I will have met with a key FBO CEO and I look forward to the session at our conference and hope there will be other opportunities. The only thing I don’t want to see are business arrangements legislated by Congress

    Thanks much for commenting

  4. Good response, Greg. You were much kinder than I would have been. I can easily write and article on how to get rid of your dead beat FBO. I respect Jim and although I was not shocked when I read his article; my disappointment turned to anger.

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