4 Lessons with David Stewart, Head of Airport Development, IATA

While attending the Passenger Terminal Expo in Cologne, Germany, I had the opportunity to meet up with David Steward, Head of Airport Development, IATA.

David Stewart is a registered architect with 30 years’ experience in airport master planning, terminal area planning and design on major international airport projects in North America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe. As Head of Airport Development for IATA David is responsible for the Association’s interface with airports world-wide. IATA’s main activities include professional contributions to major airport projects, ensuring that the aviation industry receives value for money for the investments being made in airport infrastructure.

Being new in the aviation industry, it is my belief that there is much to learn from the veterans in the industry, people who have many years of experience. Through our discussion, I picked up four key lessons that will be helpful for my career in the aviation industry.

1) Business Strategy

The major problem with most airports and businesses is the lack of a business strategy. Without a clear objective and strategy, it is challenging for future planning and progress. While we may find it surprising, there are some major airports around the world that doesn’t have a business strategy and this would hinder their future growth and expansion plans.

2) Communicate and Connect

There are primarily three parties involved in the airport environment, namely the operator, the regulator and the airlines and each play a pivotal role in the success of the airport. To ensure the success of the airport, it’s important to foster dialogue among these parties. The lack of communication would lead to disconnect and this makes it harder for success to take place. Furthermore, with constant communication, we get to hear different point of views and understand the needs of various stakeholders.

3) Align key objectives

Once there’s a business strategy in place and constant communication among key stakeholders, we then need to align our key objectives. Start on a broad level and lay down the basic principles that we can continually go back whenever there is conflicts. As we work together, there is bound to be conflicts and instead of pointing fingers, we should point back to the basics and work from there. As long as there is an alignment of objectives, we can then build upon that foundation.

4) Talk to the decision makers

When engaging stakeholders, it’s key that we speak to decision makers, people who have a strategic vision and have the ability to make key decisions. On this point, we should also be aware that meetings do not need to be formal. In fact, there are times when more things get done in an informal setting. As such, it’s important for us to maintain our casual informal relationships while also maintaining our formal work relationships.

With his years of experience in the aviation industry, this meeting has been especially fruitful for me and I have picked up some useful items that I can apply when I get back to work.

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