At GOOSE Recruitment, we love to talk to Aviation Professionals from across the world to gain their insight into what it’s like to work in the industry. We recently had the privilege of catching up with Adrian Keating, Commercial Director at Air Transat, Canada’s third-largest airline.
How long have you been working in the aviation industry and did you always know that you wanted to work in aviation?
My aviation career started 22 years ago when I joined British Airways at the age of 18 years old. I have always had two key passions, travel and sport, so it was inevitable that I would go into one of these industries. I was lucky enough to grow up travelling the world with my parents, and I was influenced by this when it came to choosing what I wanted to pursue a career in. So, when I landed my first job with British Airways, my dream job of working for a leading international airline ticked all the boxes.
What aviation businesses have you worked for?
I worked for British Airways for 10 years and I have been fortunate enough to go on to work for great brands, including EasyJet, Etihad, Malaysia Airlines, and Air Transat. All companies have been great to work for, for different reasons.
Have you noticed any key differences in how different aviation businesses operate?
On the face of it, they are all airlines, operating in an industry with low margins and high costs, taking people from A-B or in hub and spoke models A-B-C. However, the reality of day to day business varies greatly depending on the model each airline adopts.
Low-cost carriers are about high volumes of passengers and efficient use of aircraft utilisation. Whereas traditional network carriers rely on feeding their hubs and making a significant portion of revenues from high-value premium passengers. Government-owned entities, like Etihad and Malaysia Airlines, are often an extension to the country’s economies, representing the country as a brand internationally and bringing tourism to communities to boost local and national economies. As a result, different strategies are adopted around sales, marketing, and distribution. However, ultimately, they all have to answer to their customers and shareholders.
Has your commercial career in aviation been what you expected it to be?
Yes - I couldn’t have asked for any more from when I started my career at 18 years old. I consider myself very fortunate to work in an industry that I love. I have worked with some exceptional brands and really special people, and because of that, I have had some amazing experiences. I do not feel like I go to work every day, I am in my dream job, and for those reasons, I will never leave the travel industry. For me, it’s the best industry in the world.
How integral is the role of a Commercial Director within an aviation business and what are the key responsibilities?
The Commercial Director's role and responsibilities span across many areas of the business, including sales, distribution, marketing, network, digital, and ancillaries, but ultimately I am responsible for the performance of all revenue-related functions and hold ultimate responsibility for revenue performance in my markets.
I see the role as an important piece of the leadership jigsaw, as the Head of Commercial is responsible for the continued development, design, and implementation of market-specific commercial strategies, fully aligned to the broader corporate strategy.
How did you get to where you are today, as Commercial Director for one of the largest airlines in the world?
It has been a combination of the brands, company values and the managers that I have had. Throughout my career, I have been very fortunate to work for companies with strong core values, that have invested time and money in developing and continuously educating their people. I have also had some fantastic mentors and bosses who have provided the steppingstones and opportunities for me to develop my career. I am very grateful and hope to do the same for the leaders of tomorrow as I continue my career journey.
Has the pandemic required you to adopt any new strategies and develop your professional skills in your role?
The pandemic has allowed the industry and individuals to reset the business and redevelop areas that in normal times would have taken years.
It has also been important to unlearn the historical behaviour of consumers and industry modelling, as the old data is now rendered useless, we don’t know what the path looks like in the short to medium term, so we have to rebuild from a zero base. It is quite exciting in some respects as you can work with an entrepreneurial mindset.
If you could change one thing about the aviation industry, what would it be?
Sustainability – as we come out of the pandemic there needs to be a focus on making our industry consistent in our approach to the environment. Some companies are doing a great job and others are not so great at this. We must get alignment and establish a consistent approach in the coming years.
Women in leadership positions across the airline industry – there is a huge shortage of women in the boardroom and the CEO’S office. Two great female CEOs of recent years are Carolyn McCall of EasyJet and Christine Oumeries Widner at CityJet and Flybe. They are both fantastic examples of women in aviation, that have done a fantastic job in their senior positions. Leaders like this should be an inspiration and blueprint for placing more women into senior positions.
What skills and attributes do you believe it takes to be a successful Commercial Director within the aviation industry?
You need to be extremely resilient both pre and post-COVID-19. The aviation industry is impacted by all sorts of external factors that you cannot directly influence. You also need to be methodical in your approach to work, working across multiple areas with a significant number of stakeholders.
You also need to be good with people because you need to have strong relationships to influence and get things done.
What do you hope to be doing in 5 years?
I want to remain in travel, and I want to be leading commercial teams on a larger scale than what I do today. I would love to be responsible for the commercial success of an airline as we exit from the pandemic and lead the commercial recovery over the coming years, as well as spearheading the drive for digitalization across commercial and sustainable aviation. Our industry is about people so I also see my future role as key to developing the future leaders of our industry to continue in the industry I love long after I have retired (I have a while to go yet).