Current Issue #487

Drawn to the City:
Andrew Abbott, the airport duty manager

Airports are extremely busy places, something Adelaide Airport duty manager Andrew Abbott appreciates better than most.

With millions of passengers passing through its terminal each year, diligent management is a vital role at the gateway to our state. After 16 years of working at the airport, Andrew Abbott, the airport duty manager, knows the place like the back of his hand.

Abbott oversees general operations at the airport, where he works to make sure each day runs smoothly, all the time keeping his cool. “The job is extremely interesting,” says Abbott, “from looking after aircraft parking congestion to administering first aid or helping facilitate VIPs through the terminal as safely and seamlessly as possible.”

Born in South Australia, Abbott has spent much of his career working in the travel industry and has watched Adelaide Airport evolve over the years through massive renovations. “I first worked in the old Adelaide Airport terminal for Ansett Australia. I was in the company’s project team which saw the development of terminal operations and involved launching the current terminal.

Over the past 16 years, Adelaide Airport and my role have developed immensely, passenger numbers are now over eight million a year and so we have more security lanes. But I’m still waiting on an ADL to LAX flight!”

For Abbott there isn’t a typical day at the airport, rather he needs to respond to each day and its challenges accordingly. “Every day is always so different from the next. Things are constantly changing in our industry and you’re always learning and growing.”

The community spirit at the airport keeps things running efficiently, as successful operation relies on collaboration across departments. Throughout his working day, Abbott is cooperating with a vast range of people and organisations from various airlines to government agencies, security teams and cleaners. “Being a face for Adelaide Airport on the ground in the terminal, it feels like I am often representing Adelaide to visitors from all over the world and I love meeting and engaging with people from different backgrounds.

“I spend a fair bit of time ensuring that we have a good flow of passengers through security screening,” says Abbott. “We have upwards of 30,000 passengers a day flow through the terminal.”

Vital tools of his trade include his mobile phone, CCTV and an ability to problem solve and stay calm in a crisis. “In our role we really need to keep calm, so that passengers feel calm,” says Abbott. As well as keeping his composure Abbott also extends a spirit of welcome to the passengers arriving at and departing the airport.

“We deal with emergencies and support our customers and families through difficult times. We respond to critical medical situations and the speed of our response and coordination with emergency services can affect the chances of survival. We’ve seen happy results in the end but not always. Some days can be tough. Being able to support people through these situations is a rewarding part of my role.”

Abbott is also swift to help and support families. “On several occasions I’ve taken families with children who have autism on a ‘practice run’ through the whole process from check-in to boarding an aircraft . This takes the surprise element out of the actual day of travel.”

Over the years Abbott has noticed differences in how and why people travel, notably the fact that passengers are travelling more often for medical reasons and that visitors from China present an exciting growth area for local tourism.

As the year comes to a close, Abbott enjoys seeing a change in the atmosphere at the airport. “You get a lot more leisure passengers who are not such frequent travellers , so I find we spend a lot of time to make their journey seamless – from check-in to travelling with children, to helping people with disabilities. I also love the Christmas carolling that we put on for customers and seeing Santa in the terminal. It makes me smile and ,  more importantly, it feels warm and I love seeing our customers smiling , too.”

The airport is an amazing place for Abbott to work, a place where the logistics of transport meet the very human feelings behind why we travel. “There are so many beautiful moments every day, especially at Christmas time.”

Leo Greenfield

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Leo Greenfield is freelance illustrator. His work can be found at leogreenfield.com.

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