Been There, Done That: Whose Airport is it Anyway?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

We have all become invested in our work, and with this investment can come an emotional connection with our professional efforts.  Along with those connections, can come a sense of commitment and tenure in our work process. Sometimes this attachment can bring a misdirected sense of ownership, and that is the subject of this installment of Been There, Done That.  This is a cautionary tale for those who work in the public sector.  

We all know how it goes:  Airport management is not an eight to five profession. Working long hours (24-hour responsibilities), taking work home, etc., creates a sense of responsibility (and maybe perceived entitlement) for the decisions that need to be made on a regular basis.  We all must remember this is a partnership with your board, your users, and your community. To paraphrase, “No one's an Island.”

We’ve all been there – a young airport manager eager to make his or her mark, becomes so invested in a particular outcome that he or she becomes blinded to all other options or community positions.  I know I have been guilty of this. Usually this is a situation that befalls the young airport manager, but even the seasoned airport manager can land in this trap.

Ever hear the phrase:  “You can’t fight City Hall?”  Hello! Literally, sometimes this is true.

I mean, really, who wants to fall on their sword over the color of the carpet in the terminal building or even the timing/priority of what you believe to be a critical improvement project for your airport?

We, as airport professionals, have a duty to provide our best recommendations to our boards and communities and support those efforts with industry best practices.  Community leaders won’t always agree with you and that’s okay. We can and should go above and beyond without taking it personally.

In good faith, we can come to a conclusion about the right thing to do in a given situation/circumstance.  Even if you're dead certain that your position is an important or crucial step to move your airport forward, you have to ask yourself: “Am I really considering all the options here, and are there other outcomes I might not personally favor, but are equally valid?”

Next time you find yourself in this all-too-common position, remember we are stewards not owners, and say these words, “It’s not MY *&^%$#g airport!”  Repeat this phrase until the feeling passes, and keep on doing the right thing.

To contact Peter Van Pelt, National Aviation Director, directly: