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PEOPLE matters – Reflections and predictions


Terri Morrissey and Dr Richard Plenty look back at a tough year for airports and consider some of the human resources challenges that may lie ahead in 2022.

It is December 2021 and we have been living and working with this pandemic for almost two years. It is timely to reflect and take stock of the impact this has had on us all, on our working environments and lives – and on our physical and psychological wellbeing and health.

It is also a good time, at the beginning of a New Year, to try and make predictions about how the future may pan out.

That won’t be easy. The only certainty seems to be that we have lived, and will continue to live, in a world of increasing uncertainty. This has made it difficult to plan, to strategise, and to make decisions around organisational and people issues such as resourcing, capacity building and people development. Many people have been made redundant.

At the individual level, the adverse impact of the pandemic on some people’s mental health and psychological wellbeing has been obvious. Yet even this isn’t a simple picture.

Take employee engagement for example. According to OrgVitality, a US-based consulting firm, employee engagement scores in the States held up remarkably well in 2020 due, in part, to the ‘rally around’ that can take place in a crisis. But now we are further into the pandemic, can this enthusiasm be maintained?

We have seen wave after wave of the pandemic, with another one hitting as we write this column. This has led to major changes in employment practices, which airports have been absorbing, especially in relation to where people work. Those that can work from home have been encouraged to do so, then exhorted back to the workplace and now, once again, encouraged to stay at home if possible.

This drive towards home working has been greatly facilitated by the rapid take-up of video meeting technologies such as Zoom and Teams. But this revolution in our ability to connect people virtually – instantaneously, easily, low cost – also hits directly at the value proposition aviation provides for business travellers.

In this changing environment, it is very difficult to make longer-term forecasts with any degree of accuracy as we don’t know exactly how and when the pandemic will end. However, there have been attempts made to look to the immediate future and to try and paint a picture of the kinds of trends to expect.

According to Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, in a talk he gave to the 31st Annual Assembly in Geneva in October 2021, there is a huge pent up demand for leisure and personal travel that is likely to put immediate pressure on airports as the pandemic subsides and they have to ramp up to meet this demand.

And they will need to do this in the context of some major external challenges such as environmental concerns and health issues.

With regards to the environment, the need to move more rapidly towards sustainable green aviation will drive technological innovation in fuel and airplane design as well as air traffic management. In this respect, ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme will become ever more important.

In terms of the health challenges, there is a need to remove the anxiety surrounding travel. This will require even more collaborative working between and across disciplines to ensure a more co-ordinated and effective approach to international travel measures, thus enhancing the customer experience.

Collaboration, co-operation and partnership will be needed to address both environmental and health matters. The paradox is that while travel facilitates connection between people, geopolitics can sometimes make it more difficult.


Dato’ Iskandar Mizal Mahmood is the new managing director of Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB). He had previously served MAHB as general manager (1999-2003) where he had led the Initial Public Offering (IPO) and listing of the company on Bursa Malaysia.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has named Tanisha Lewis as its new vice president of diversity, inclusion and social impact. The move follows the creation of a new Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Social to further the organisation’s long history of focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), environmental and social impact in the communities it serves.

Munich Airport has two new members of its management board, Nathalie Leroy and Jan-Henrik Andersson. Leroy, who was born in France, has been the chief financial officer and director of infrastructure at the airport company since October 1, 2021. Jan-Henrik Andersson, who succeeds Andrea Gebbeken, has assumed responsibility for commercial and security activities.

Ryan Both is the new executive general manager for aviation at Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC). He will commence at BAC on February 1, 2022, replacing Jim Parashos, who is leaving after five years with Brisbane Airport.

Aena’s managing director for airports and executive board member, Javier Marín, is the new president of ACI Europe, succeeding Munich Airport’s Jost Lammers upon the completion of his time in the hot-seat. Marín said: “The role of our association has never been more central – giving us voice on the international stage, defending and promoting our license to operate, and making us even greater than the sum of our parts as we digitalise and decarbonise our industry.”

About the authors

Terri Morrissey and Dr Richard Plenty are directors of This Is…, authors of the book Uncertainty Rules? Making Uncertainty Work for You, and deliver ACI World’s Airport Human Resources training. You can contact them at info@thisis.eu 

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