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Kate McCreery-Carr: making excellence and efficiency part of day-to-day business

As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforests of North Queensland, Cairns Airport is a bustling regional link that welcomes over five million passengers every year.

Taking charge of the busy day-to-day operations to ensure excellence and efficiency, is Chief Operations Officer Kate McCreery-Carr.

Kate spoke to the Airport Professional about her career so far, the need to balance priorities and how to be successful in an ever-evolving industry.

“My first job in the industry was as a Passenger Liaison Officer with Air Niugini in 1990, where I opened their first Australian lounge,” she says.

“I really adored that role as I met so many interesting people. We also looked after a number of other carriers.”

Those early experiences liaising directly with passengers has seen Kate tr ansition to a successful career focused on ensuring the airport is a warm and welcoming place for every visitor.

Now responsible for overseeing the vital day-to-day operations of Cairns Airport, Kate is leading a diverse team to ensure passengers’ interactions with airport processes are not just efficient, but enjoyable too.

She manages the airport’s terminals, aerodrome, engineering, infrastructure and maintenance operations, giving Kate a detailed understanding of every aspect of the airport.

“In my role it is just not a one-man band, I rely heavily on a wonderful group of people to meet our customers’ needs,” she says.

“I know I am very fortunate to have them all working together, with the same focus on our customers as well as running an airport that is safe and secure.

“You have to be on the front foot in this industry and you need to balance your priorities with what airline partners, customers and others need and match that with standards, compliance and the ever-changing security world.

“There’s no such thing as an average day here, with the areas it covers being so dynamic and diverse. It takes me from strategy development with the board and leadership team right through to its execution in the field on a daily basis.”

That dynamic environment has proven to be a powerful one for Kate, who has experienced significant success in her role in recent years.

In 2014, Kate won the AAA Award for Individual Achievement, Major Airport after a busy year that included airport facilitation for two major one-off events held in Cairns –  the Australian Tourism Exchange in May and the G20 Finance Minister’s Meeting in September – as well as business as usual activities.

“I was lost for words when I received the AAA award. Once again it reflected the importance of having a great team that shares my commitment to excellence in service delivery and great networks through the likes of the AAA and the industry which help me continually grow my aviation knowledge,” Kate says.

She says two of her proudest career achievements were the introduction of the Airport Customer Experience (ACE) program and the Airport Ambassadors program, which both provided the foundation for the passenger focus so evident throughout the airport’s operations today.

“ACE is embraced by the whole of the airport community as part of the overall positive culture and customer focus at Cairns Airport, while the Ambassadors are an amazing group of volunteers who give up their time to welcome passengers and help them out with useful information about the airport and the destination.”

Kate believes the future looks bright for Cairns Airport and its continued efforts to work with the community is a vital part of its development.

“From our perspective we are integral to the community and we work very closely with them to facilitate their needs. We must ensure we continue to provide the right services to meet their demands.”

Kate will be presenting the session ‘Cairns Taxiway Bravo Upgrade Learnings’ on day two of the AAA OPS SWAP Forum in May. The session will focus on Cairns Airport’s current work on the asphalt overlay of Taxiway B.

Kate will discuss the operational challenges faced and how they were addressed through good collaboration between the operations and projects team.

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