Andrew Warrender: On becoming an ‘airport person’ and young executive of the year
As a young boy with parents who loved to travel the world, Andrew Warrender had one ambition when he grew up – to be ‘an airport person’!
Fast forward to his current role as Northern Territory Airports Head of Commercial and Andrew has built a career path that his young self would be proud of.
Last month, Andrew’s contribution to the airport industry was recognised when he was named Airports Council International (ACI) Asia Pacific Young Executive of the Year 2018.
The Airport Professional spoke to Andrew about his journey so far and how a career in the pub industry offered some important life skills.
“So much of my role is about managing and building relationships, which in my view you only really become effective at with experience,” Andrew says.
“It certainly helps that I used to be a concessionaire in an airport, I understand intimately the pinch points and motivations of our retailers. Whilst our partners don’t always like hearing what I have to say, sometimes you have to have honest conversations, at the very least they can respect it coming from someone who once walked in their shoes.
“Coming from the pub trade I also picked up some really important lessons about people along the way. I always say, if you want to learn about people, business and leadership the pub trade is great place to start.”
Since making the move to airports, Andrew has collected a long list of notable achievements. Whilst at Darwin Airport, his particular career highlights include the opening of the first Australian airport-owned and operated lounge, The Catalina Lounge, and the opening of The Wirraway Business Centre.
“I am really proud of the Catalina Lounge – the facility, service and lounge product my team has developed. I am extremely proud of the role the Catalina Lounge plays in giving our international visitors the best last memory of the Territory. The lounge has been a great addition to the passenger experience,” Andrew says.
“Last year we opened The Wirraway Business Centre in the terminal, which won a AAA Airport Innovation & Excellence Non-Aeronautical Development 2017 award. The Wirraway Business Centre is owned and operated by Darwin Airport and provides state of the art business facilities for our community. Importantly, it helps diversify our revenue streams to include non-passenger dependent income.”
Andrew believes saying ‘yes’ can lead to great things.
“I am truly blessed to have a dedicated, talented, passionate team who take me on this fantastic journey each day.”
“I am a great believer in empowerment and I try to give my team as much autonomy as I can by saying ‘yes’ more. Good people find new, better ways of doing things or eking out commercial opportunities – really my job is to nurture this innovation culture and help the team be successful.”
The diversity of airport life has also been a big drawcard for Andrew, and he says he looks forward to the new opportunities it may bring.
“It’s such a cliché, but I really do enjoy seeing members of my team each individually growing, developing and being successful,” Andrew says.
“I am also a bit of plane geek, so spending each day at the airport is pretty enjoyable.
“At the risk of giving another cliché, each airport really is a village. We are privileged to work with some of the most talented and dedicated people in any industry. Like a village, each of those expert people need to play their part in order for the whole airport to be successful.
“I have never come across any other work place that has such a diverse range of skills or businesses all in one place, all contributing to one overall vision. It’s an exciting dynamic industry to work in.
“Having once crossed the line from concessionaire to airport commercial, I can see myself one day crossing from non-aero to aero and having a good go at aviation development. Non-aero commercial is so reliant on the aero side of the business to deliver passengers, it would great to be exposed to that and understand how it all works.”
About the ACI Asia-Pacific Young Executive of the Year Award
The ACI Asia-Pacific Young Executive of the Year Award is a research paper competition and was introduced in 2009. It aims to encourage and promote innovative ideas and solutions to challenges facing the aviation industry. Andrew will receive his award at the ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly in Narita, Japan on 24 April.