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October 8, 2015

What It Is Like To Work For An Airline As An #Avgeek

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Written by: Gordon Gebert, Jr.
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Like many of you reading this story, I have been a self-proclaimed aviation geek from a young age. It started with frequent trips to the local New York airports to plane spot with my father. Later, it was fueled by a love for travel, photography, and global affairs. Today, it has grown into a full-fledged lifestyle.

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The magic.

Some of us maintain this passion as a simple hobby while others commit their lives to becoming as involved as possible. I always knew I would be the latter. From my dreams of being a pilot for Qantas to running LAX as Airport Manager the possibilities seemed endless. Yet it was not until I began my studies in university that I began to focus more seriously on making these dreams come true.

In my brief professional career I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked for three airlines and one government agency that is responsible for overseeing and maintaining our national aviation policy. It all began in our nation’s capital where I attended college, pursuing a degree in International Affairs. Four years later I not only held a Bachelor’s Degree but also had the experience of interning with two major international airlines AND the USDOT. Those experiences exposed me to three significant areas of the industry: commercial, regulatory, and operation. This alone was almost more valuable to me than my college education.

The projects I contributed to and the connections and influential figures I met where beyond my wildest dreams. From planning the inaugural airport event for the Boeing 747-8i to redesigning the boarding area to accommodate A380 operations. I also helped provide background research on major aviation policy topics, and contributing my photography towards national promotional material. A highlight for me was flying business class to Europe to tour company headquarters and one of the largest terminal facilities in the world, rubbing elbows with my childhood idol Sir Richard Branson and a host of other CEO. The whole experience was so euphoric and I had to pinch myself as a reminder that it was only the beginning.

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The ramp is like your playground when working at the airport.

In August I began a full-time position with one of the more prominent US airlines in their corporate headquarters. Having the opportunity to work in the heart of an airline can only be described as purely awesome. Not only do you have access to infinite resources and a wealth of knowledge of every department in the airline, you are also surrounded by people who, for the most part, have a general interest and passion for the industry as well.

Every morning I sit down at my desk, fire up the computer and browse the discussion forum on Airliners.net to see what developments have unfolded in the rest of the world while I was sleeping. I look to my left and my coworker is doing the same, I look to my right and another coworker is busy tracking aircraft on Flightradar24 (just because). I listen to conversations a row behind me and coworkers are discussing whether or not to post a discussion thread regarding a new route we announced as it had not gained traction yet on the web. Someone from another department passes my desk and comments on the models I have proudly displaced on my cabinet. These things are considered normal in headquarters.

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Richard Branson and Richard Anderson conducting a joint panel at the US Chamber of Commence Aviation Summit.

I work in the Network Planning department, which comprises some of the sexier teams in the industry such as route planning (deciding where we’ll fly, how often, and on what equipment), partnerships (maintaining and continuing to grow the list of interline and bilateral codeshare agreements), and scheduling, which is the team I sit on.

In scheduling, we are responsible for the creation and maintenance of the network flight schedule. My day-to-day responsibilities include gating our flights in up to 90 stations, ensuring all of our turns meet the minimum ground time connection, routing aircraft through maintenance bases on the required frequency, and building new flights into the schedule by identifying and eliminating frequency for funding options (where do we get the plane from to operate the new route).

For me the work I contribute almost feels like a video game, as if the fruits of my labor are not tangible to the operation and will not have a significant effect on anything. Part of this stems from my hobby of collecting model aircraft for a fictional model airport I have built and created a schedule for over the past twenty years. A lot of what I have done for my airport I actually end up doing for my real-life airline. My sentiments could not be further from the truth as every change I make in the schedule has a direct impact not only on our operation but also the thousands of customers who book our flights months in advance.

I was always told growing up that money may be nice to have but having a job where you genuinely enjoy going to work every day is more important. So you may be wondering if I ever get bored with what I do? The simple answer is no. Regardless of what department you work in, having a job in the aviation industry means no day will be like the next – this is especially true in the operations but also at headquarters. Even when I was working as a customer service agent for my current airline and there were days that I incurred a great deal of stress through situations that were out of my control, I still found time to take a step back and admire what it was that I was actually doing. Yes, I will admit going to work in a domestic airport where I would touch the same aircraft day in and day out paled in comparison to working around larger aircraft in an international airport, but it still meant I was in and around planes constantly.

Now that I have told my story, I wish to share some advice for those of you who either share a similar experience to my own or are contemplating making the jump into the industry and need a little more push to do so. First and foremost working for an airline is not enough to fuel the passion. It is important to maintain outside activities that allow you to revel in the magic of aviation. For me, this is as simple as traveling, which I try to take advantage of often.

Since I came into the glorious world of flight benefits in December 2014 I have flown over 85 times. Most of those trips have been on my own airline and to domestic destinations, however some have been to international destinations or on other airlines. Take for example my recent trip to Switzerland. I was listed on a Swiss flight and did not learn until 30 minutes prior to departure that a Lufthansa flight to Munich had canceled and they were accommodating customers on my flight, thus zeroing out any availability. What did I do? Ran like my life depended on it to Delta, and made it on their flight with 10 minutes to departure. I will not go into detail of my trip to Australia but let’s just say when I could not make it west I went east (IAD-LHR-DXB-SYD – 32 hours). This keeps the passion alive for me. Plane spotting and model collecting also contribute to my passion.

My second piece of candy would be do not fret about your experience or background. I was offered a Sales and Marketing internship with no prior knowledge in either field and a degree in a totally different area. Having the passion is sometimes enough – at least that is what the hiring manager told me towards the end of my time in the program. The industry is vast and whether you major in aviation management, business, international affairs, engineering, you name it you will most likely be able to find a position in line with your interest and background, and never forget to push the passion to the forefront of your qualifications. Anything is possible if you are determined enough.

Working for an airline as a #avgeek is maybe exactly as you might have imagined when you read the title of this article: it is the best.

 

Gordon Gebert joined NYCAviation in 2005 at the ripe age of 13. From plane spotting in the parking lot of Costco at JFK to managing the flight schedule of a top 5 US carrier, Gordon has turned his long-standing passion for aviation into a full-time career. In addition to network planning, Gordon also has airline experience in the commercial, regulatory, and operations departments of one domestic airline, two international airlines and one government agency. Gordon greatly enjoys travel and photography and his adventures can be followed via his Instagram



About the Author

Gordon Gebert, Jr.





 
 

 

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  • Zina Aziz

    A very interesting read. Thanks for sharing Gordon!