IAR’s Airport Leader of the Future 2023 nominees are revealed

Read all about International Airport Review’s new initiative aimed at recognising and celebrating the next generation of airport leaders.

This year, International Airport Review launched it’s Airport Leader of the Future initiative to recognise, celebrate and campaign for the next generation of airport leaders by highlighting promising individuals who are believed in by their teams. 

Airport leaders were invited to nominate their Airport Leader of the Future and the below nominees form the shortlist. The winner of International Airport Review‘s Airport Leader of the Future award will be announced at at the Airport Honour Awards taking place at the International Airport Summit on 14 November 2024.

This is a new concept for International Airport Review and we will look at expanding this initiative next year.

In no particular order the nominees are:

1. Jennifer Byrne-Smith

Terminal Operations Director – T1, Manchester Airport
Words from the nominator

“Extremely high potential leader who joined Manchester Airport Group five years ago and is now on her fifth promotion. The sort of individual who says yes to the next challenge and then gets stuck in to making progress and delivering positive change. Appointed to lead the Terminal 1 team in October 2022, at a time when Terminal 1 only had two more summers before being retired. Rather than seeing this as a problem, Jen approached the challenge as an opportunity, creating a low cost-high impact capital project to make to make the very best of the challenging infrastructure. Prior to that, she worked as the Head of Airport Operations Control during a very challenging period for Manchester Airport. I arrived in June 2022 and, until researching her background for this nomination, had assumed she’d been in role for a long-time (based on her performance and that of her team). It had actually only been two months!  Very deserving of this nomination and very much a Leader of the Future.”

2. Laszlo Kopasz

Terminal 3 Development – Director Architecture, Budapest International Airport

Words from the nominator

“Laszlo joined aviation industry only one year ago, when he decided to use his more than 20 year experience in architecture and design to help Budapest Airport develop the new Terminal 3. Laszlo came familiar with the airport operations and is building trust between the industry players. During this one year, Laszlo has prepared the architectural competition, which is ready for launch. He has detailed the design brief with stakeholder requirements and is leading the preparation of primary, secondary and space requirement models.”

3. Luca La Porta

Safety Manager and Compliance Manager, Verona Airport

Words from the nominator

“I nominate Luca La Porta for several reasons. First, Luca possesses a strong and specific skill set that adds significant value to any role he takes on. What stands out is his willingness to explore different roles, demonstrating adaptability and commitment to personal growth.

Luca’s ability to actively listen and make connections with others is noteworthy. He not only understands the needs and concerns of his colleagues, but also offers practical solutions to address challenges. This proactive approach reflects his problem solving skills and leadership potential within teams.

In addition, Luca is very interested in emerging technologies and innovative tools (e.g., the application of drones in airport operations or the digitisation process) for the development of our business.

The combination of expertise, interpersonal skills, and future-oriented mindset makes Luca La Porta a candidate for leadership roles and I recommend his appointment.”

4. Giulio Ranucci

Head of Innovation & Digital, Aeroporti di Roma S.p.A.
Words from the nominator

“Giulio is the engine that deployed our Innovation model from scratch in just two years coming from a unique disruptive situation for the industry (COVID-19 pandemic) which aimed to an accelerator programme ‘Runway to the future’, an innovation HUB inside FCO Airport and a Corporate Venture Fund ‘ADR Ventures’ directly managed by the company.

Thanks to his support, the company enrolled more then 350 start-ups to the programme accelerating 25 of them in the first two years, achieved a 50% full rollout of the innovative solution accelerated in the first year and a CVC investment on an Indian/U.S. start-up focused on autonomous delivery (service up and running in FCO since 2022).

Giulio defined and deployed the first airports based organisation focused on innovation ‘Airport for Innovation Network’ that currently counts on 68 airports spanning from Europe to North America with the aim of rolling out a joint call for ideas in the first quarter of 2024 increasing even more the reason why for a start-up to embrace the challenges of the aviation industry both in terms of sustainability and innovation.

Giulio defined and currently leads a team of 30 talent colleagues, the Innovation Cabin Crew, that has being shaping, with a mentor an open approach, the airport of the future pushing even forward the company engagement towards innovation building a strong reason why for start up from around the world to join ADR’s accelerator programme. https://www.adr.it/web/aeroporti-di-roma-en/innovation”

5. Ricia Vinelli O. Montejo

Head – International Terminal Operations and Head – Customer Experience, GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC)
Words from the nominator

“Ricia Vinelli O. Montejo joined GMR Megawide Cebu International Corporation (GMCAC) on 01 March 2016.  GMCAC is the company that operates the Mactan-Cebu International Airport located in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, Philippines.

Ricia is a consistent Outstanding Performer from 2016 to 2022. She was hired as Procurement Manager.  She has had extensive work experience in supply chain management. When terminal 2 (International Terminal) of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) was completed in 2018, Ricia became the Head of International Terminal Operations. As Head of Terminal 2 Operations, she has maintained the good quality of the airport and ensured that the best customer experience was provided for the passengers.

In 2023, Ricia was appointed as Head of Customer Experience on top of her role as Head for International Terminal Operations. She led in driving the accreditation process of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the Airports Council International (ACI). In July 2023, MCIA became the first airport in the Philippines to receive the Airport Customer Experience Accreditation for Airport Service Quality from the Airports Council International.

Ricia’s leadership in both International Terminal Operations and Customer Experience will greatly contribute to taking MCIA to greater heights in its vision of becoming a world-class airport.”

6. Raelyn Krutbosch

Director, Real Estate and Property Management, Edmonton International Airport
Words from the nominator

“Raelyn Kruitbosch is being nominated for the Leader of the Future award by the executive team at Edmonton International Airport (YEG) due to her exceptional leadership and significant contributions to the airport’s growth and development.

As the Director of Real Estate and Property Management, Raelyn has demonstrated remarkable strategic vision and operational excellence. She manages the airport’s real estate portfolio, including the entire Airport City Sustainability Campus, a hub that propels new jobs, tourism, and economic diversification. Her efforts have been instrumental in driving economic opportunities for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

Raelyn embodies all quadrants of leadership. She is known for her business acumen, her ability to build and sustain meaningful relationships, and her collaborative approach. The executive team highly values her excellent communication skills and constant desire to improve the airport for the Edmonton area.

Moreover, Raelyn’s commitment to ensuring financial, social, and environmental sustainability aligns perfectly with the airport’s core values. Her dedication, adaptability, and commitment to sustainability make her an exceptional candidate for the Leader of the Future award. The executive team at YEG is honoured to nominate Raelyn for this prestigious recognition, as she truly represents the future of leadership in the aviation industry.

7. Stefan Dechow-Meyer

Head of Aviation Development, Hamburg Airport
Words from the nominator:

“Stefan is one of our senior managers in our management team. He and his colleagues develop infrastructural and digital solutions that will optimise tomorrow’s operations at the Airport. The solutions are planned and implemented through targeted analyses and simulations of future scenarios. With more than 13 years of airport experience in projects, Stefan is a crucial pillar for our airport development.”

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