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OTHER ARTICLES Last modified on November 19, 2015

People matters - All together now

Terri Morrissey and Dr Richard Plenty provide their thoughts on: Cutting bureaucracy by empowering people.

An international airport can be an exciting place to work with lots of variety and the knowledge that connecting people and places is a ‘grand endeavour’ and one to be proud of.

Why is it then that the results of ACI Europe’s AirPeople employee survey show that airport staff rate their working environment a little less favourably than those in other sectors?

Bureaucracy is the major cause of their frustration and concern. Airport staff are generally very positive about their industry and their employers but dislike the slow convoluted decision-making and inefficient work organisation that they experience.

Perhaps this should not surprise us. Many airports are, or have recently been, state owned entities which are rarely stellar examples of efficiency and effectiveness.

The industry is also heavily regulated with a strong safety culture, which means that formal procedures are rightly required in many safety-critical areas. 

Bureaucracy is not the same as necessary procedures. Many bureaucratic procedures develop over time from well-intentioned efforts to standardise and simplify highly complex processes. Quite often these “grow legs”, get added to and outgrow their usefulness. 

Steps are continually added to try to cater for all eventualities. These are rarely updated or dropped as time and technology move on. Unnecessary meetings and slow decision-making result.

People can hide behind the rules and a bureaucratic mindset can set in. Commonly heard phrases such as “I can’t do that unless it’s in writing”, “I’ll have to wait to ask my manager”, and “that’s not my job”, are used to avoid taking responsibility. This does little to help customer focus, innovation, effectiveness, or speedy response.

‘Good intentions’ should not be an excuse for burdening those parts of the business, which need agility, flexibility and the ability to respond rapidly to changing circumstances. 

Encouraging and developing a mindset of initiative taking and proactivity can lead to better results, lower costs and help build a more entrepreneurial organisation. 

Allowing people to think for themselves and have the courage to take decisions can bring about a more engaged and committed workforce.

This can be helped along by:

  • Ensuring that people understand the overall vision and direction of the company and the role they play
  • Freeing people up to do their jobs so they have the authority, responsibility and skills, without the necessity for constant supervision and control
  • Encouraging people to work together and across boundaries to continuously simplify and improve processes and get rid of redundant practices

People who feel that they have some control over their work are more likely to be positive about their organisations, express higher levels of engagement and perform to higher standards.



IATA is looking for a new director general and CEO following Tony Tyler’s announcement that he will retire in June 2016 after serving five years in the position. He says: “I believe it will be time for me to retire and leave the organisation. It is a great privilege and responsibility to lead IATA, and I am proud of what the IATA team is achieving during my term of office. I remain fully committed until my successor is appointed in June next year.” Before joining IATA, Tyler was chief executive of Cathay
Pacific Airways in Hong Kong.

Stobart Aviation – which operates London Southend Airport and also Carlisle Lake District Airport – has appointed two aviation industry specialists to spearhead its operations. Former Luton Airport managing director, Glyn Jones, is its new CEO and ex-Cardiff Airport boss, Jon Horne, its chief operating officer. 

Darryn Holder has joined HOK’s Aviation & Transportation practice as senior vice president and regional leader in London. A recognised industry leader, Holder brings 27 years of international planning and design experience to HOK’s A+T clients. He will focus on project opportunities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Warren Jones is the new director of TIACA. He is based at TIACA’s Miami headquarters and reports directly to secretary general, Doug Brittin. Jones brings over 18 years’ air cargo experience to his new post, including senior roles at IATA, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chapman Freeborn.


About the authors
Terri Morrissey and Dr Richard Plenty are organisers of ACI’s annual Leadership and Change Summit, which this year will be part of Airport Exchange in Istanbul, December 8-10. They can be contacted at

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