Life at MAN - Ashley Warren (Airport Duty Manager)


Airport Duty Manager Ashley Warren talks us through his role, from terminal evacuations to rogue crustaceans…


What are your main responsibilities?

The Airport Duty Manager takes responsibility for the functioning of the airport operation as a whole, assessing risks and deploying resources where necessary to create a smooth, seamless experience for passengers and colleagues alike. The Airport Duty Manager, on a typical day, will look after everything from the road network, right through the terminals, out onto the airfield. We're always on the lookout for potential disruption and we try to minimise that where we can. 

This unfortunately isn’t always possible – the airport operation is sizeable and complex with dozens of different functions working hard to provide the best possible experience in their area of the business - and the Airport Duty Manager plays a key part in the process when disruption does occur. This can range from approving diverting aircraft into Manchester due to bad weather at other airports, to responding to threats made against the airport in conjunction with the Police, and everything in between.

What does your job involve on a typical day?

Every shift can be completely different one day to the next and that is a big part of what makes my job fulfilling. I like to begin my day by checking in with the operational teams, just making sure that they are OK, have everything that they need and and that we deliver the best experience we can for our passengers. There can be a wide variety of items to see to in any one day, from meeting VIPs travelling through the airport, to discussing potential disruption with external agencies and airlines.

Once the handover is completed, I like to speak to the different operational managers onsite to see how the Airport operations are going so far and to see if they are expecting any issues for the day. We have had a lot of sports teams passing through the airport recently with the Champions League and Rugby League World Cup. A large portion of time was used to gather information for these movements and making sure the operational teams and the Police are aware of what is happening and have a plan to work to.

During the day, the Airport Duty Manager will keep in regular contact with different departments across the operation to coordinate our response to any issues that arise. An example of this would be a crash on one of the roads on our network may cause delays to passengers and colleagues. We can then see the impact of this at check in and subsequently security. Being advised early helps the teams plan, and support each other to keep any disruption to a minimum.

How long have you been working at the airport?

I first started at Manchester Airport in 2005. I started in the Security department as an Aviation Security Officer and worked my way up to Security Team Manager. I did eight years in that role where I had the opportunity to take part in various projects and had a secondment as a Terminal Security Manager. Towards the end of this secondment, a new role was being created and I managed to secure myself a position as a Security Duty Manager. I did a further two years in this role before gaining another promotion and then finally landed here as an Airport Duty Manager. 

My background at various levels of the operation really helps in my current role - I learnt a lot of things about how the airport works, how people move through the airport and the geography of the airport.

What is your favourite part of the job?

My favourite part of the job would be the sheer scope and variety of things that we come across day to day. Every day is different, but one of the constants are the brilliant teams that we work. They are ever professional and that, along with a brilliant sense of humour, gets you through the day. I loved working in the security team and enjoyed the challenges that it brought, but this role is by far my favourite one at MAG so far. I have met so many brilliant and passionate people.

What are the most important skills for Airport Duty Managers to have?

Without a doubt the most important skills to have are sound reasoning and decision making skills. The role can be very time pressured and very stressful, and getting those decisions right in the moment really matters, not only for our colleagues and customer safety, but also for the commercial side of the airport as a business and our service partners. There are some very difficult decisions to make as an Airport Duty Manager and some of these must be made urgently. Deciding to evacuate a building is probably the best example of this. The disruption caused for the passengers and our teams is huge, but the impact of not evacuating a building can, of course, be even bigger and much more serious. Upwards of 90,000 people are moving through the airport on a busy day, so keeping our colleagues and customers safe as they move through the site is very, very important. 

What do you enjoy most about working at the airport?

There are many things I enjoy about working at the airport. I remember back to the first day I pulled into the car park, driving past the planes, and I was amazed at the size of the aircraft and couldn’t believe they were just sitting there on the other side of the chain link fence. I find that I still get a kick as I drive into the staff car park. I drive past all the planes that are lined up on the airfield and it just brings me a real moment of joy. I am by no means a ‘spotter’, but there is just something about it that gets under your skin.

What’s the most interesting / unusual thing you’ve encountered on the job?

Working in operations, it would be fair to say we to get to see some really weird stuff at times. One of the strangest things was finding a box of 10 lobsters abandoned in the terminal as the passenger obviously couldn’t fly with them. Unfortunately, they were not alive and by the smell, had been in the box for a few days!

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I like to be out and about with my family, and our dog. We will jump in our camper van and go off and explore the UK! When I’m not doing that, I try to play the odd round of golf with my friends. I’m terrible at it!