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Antigua and Barbuda Airport. The sky's the limit!

Speaking to Endeavour Magazine, Stanley Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA), talks about the large scale developments being initiated at the airport and what improvements it will make to the operation of the facility.

The history of the Antigua and Barbuda Airport is exceptionally interesting, with regular expansion and developments being documented. Initially constructed in 1942, as a basic aerodrome for the American military, it was effectively ‘given’ back to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to do with what they pleased in 1949. Seeing an opportunity for commercial use, the site was improved and finally open for public use in 1952 under the name of ‘Coolidge Airport’.

A number of improvements were made in the following years, including numerous runway extensions in the 1960s and ‘70s, resulting in a 9,000ft thanks to a Canadian Government grant being won in 1972. Parking facilities were also drastically improved, with extensive expansion being included for extra aircraft. It was not until the 1980s that operational buildings were given attention, but a brand new, 60,000 square foot, passenger terminal was constructed in 1982 and following smaller scale renovations, the newly rejuvenated airport was renamed in 1985. Now called the V.C. Bird International Airport, named in honour of the country’s first Prime Minister, the Honourable Dr. Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Senior, the facility has welcomed international arrivals from airlines including Eastern, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, British Airways and countless others.

With such results following redevelopment, it comes as no surprise that the forward thinking Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA) has taken inspiration from the former successes and embarked upon an impressive series of renovation projects in recent years, with the final element set to be completed in early 2015. Endeavour wanted to know how these projects have come about and asked Stanley Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the ABAA to expand on the process and how the ABAA has been given the authority to oversee the improvements,

“The Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority Act was passed by an Act of Parliament in November 2006 resulting in the transition to a full corporate entity in February 2007. The mandate of the new act was stated to “provide for the establishment of an Airport Authority; to make provisions for the ownership, control, management and development of airports in Antigua and Barbuda; and for matters connected generally with management of airports”. Prior to November 2006, the V.C. Bird International Airport was operated under the auspices of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and was managed by an Aerodrome Superintendent.”

With the power to authorise dramatic improvement initiatives in place, an incredible expansion plan could be put into place,

“The Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA) has embarked on a multi-million dollar airport expansion project. This includes runway extension, apron rehabilitation, new underground fuel hydrant systems, airfield lighting improvement and construction of a new passenger terminal building. All expansions have been completed already, with exception of the passenger terminal building. The new passenger terminal building is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2015 and will accommodate passengers within a spacious 23,000 square meters of specifically designed space. It will have 46 common use check in counters, 15 self check in kiosks, a state of the art hold baggage handling system, sophisticated pre-boarding screening facilities, passenger loading bridges and 26 retail shops and 4 restaurants”

With such attention to detail being included in every facet of the new developments, the ABAA are offering state of the art airport facilities to rival other large international destinations. Such improvements are such to attract not only larger numbers of international and domestic travellers, but potentially increased numbers of airlines, which will have a huge impact on the financial buoyancy of the airport itself.

Permeating every area of the airports operations, the ABAA cite their everyday business activities as,

“Providing facilities for the efficient processing of passengers, both international and domestic. We also oversee all food, beverage and retail/commercial activities as well as concerning ourselves with the effective provision of concession space for car rentals, tour operators and in-plane catering.”

Is there anything that the ABAA does not do? With every element of its operation being fully geared towards the success of the V.C. Bird International Airport, it stands to reason that it must boast an impressive staffing body. Endeavour asked Smith to talk about the importance of hiring effective team members and how they are supported in their career aspirations,

“The ABAA has continued to promulgate staff development, across the company. With this in mind, a comprehensive training program has been developed for operations coordinators, customer service representatives, mechanical and electrical technicians and administrative assistants. Most of these programs are drawn from Airport Council International and ICAO, to guarantee quality. With the imminent opening of the new terminal building it has become increasingly important to monitor staff performance and as such, in-house and overseas training will be conducted for all ABAA staff involved with the operation and maintenance of specialised terminal equipment.”

Clearly the ABAA must be a company that many people harbour a desire to work for, thanks to dedicated training and progression opportunities, but will they be offering any openings soon?

“The opening of the new terminal building will, naturally, see employment opportunities arising in the Information Communication and Technology and Commercial Development departments. The ABAA takes a unique view of physical well being and the impact it has on effective job completion, observing healthy employees to offer enhanced productivity and as such the ABAA Fitness Challenge was launched in May 2014. This involves staff participating in a fitness program, coupled with tailored health talks.”

It’s astounding to observe that a company in the midst of a large scale redevelopment and improvement initiative can take the time to consider the health and well being of the 250 strong work force that it employs, but this is merely another example of how the ABAA continues to set the standard for employers the world over. With this in mind, it is entirely understandable why the company has adopted a new tagline and mantra,

“We Deliver.”

They have delivered indeed.

Source: Littlegate Publishing

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