Aviation jobs: We interview Jetblue’s LAX general manager

Paula Minniti pic

In another installment of the “Aviation Jobs” feature, we interview Paula Minniti, who runs Jetblue’s operation at Los Angeles International Airport. Minniti is in charge of 38 “crew members” and four supervisors, though she said those numbers are growing.

I asked her if she could tell us a little bit about what a station manager does for Jetblue. Here’s our interview, which we conducted via email. I have condensed it slightly.

Tell us a little bit about your typical day. 

My day might consist of working with regulatory agencies (TSA, FAA, FBI, DOT, Airport and Los Angeles Police) LAWA representatives, other airline management, and JetBlue departments that support us, etc. I complete reports, I hire crewmembers, and I make sure we are following procedures and policies set forth by JetBlue and regulatory agencies. I hire and manage our business partners. I document and maintain accurate training records. I take responsibility for both internal and external compliance audits of all sorts. I physically check on the operation to make sure things are safe, secure and running smoothly. I am the local spokesperson for JetBlue and I make sure that we get what we need to have a smooth operation.

I am empowered to make decisions on my company’s behalf using our company values (Safety, Integrity, Caring, Passion and Fun.) I treat my station like it is my franchise and make the best decisions I can keeping my company values in mind.

Jetblue

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is that it is never the same. Every day I learn something new, I meet new people, and I get to go to the airport every day! I also like the fact that I get to see the result of most tasks that I complete.

What’s your least favorite part of your job?

The least favorite part of my job is that there are many things out of my control. For example: aircraft sometimes have maintenance issues, or weather 3,000 miles away can affect our operation.

With not that many gates in Terminal 3, how do you schedule which flights arrive and depart from which gates. I imagine it’s a finely tuned operation. How many flights per day does each gate handle?

Gates at Terminal 3 are assigned by the LAWA “gate assignment team.” When our flights depart from their origin, and a definite arrival time is determined, my supervisors call this team and a gate is assigned. We usually operate out of gate 33B, but that can change depending on arrival time into LAX. You’re correct when you say that it is a “finely tuned operation.” The LAWA gate assignment team juggles aircraft so that they make the best usage of all gates at Terminal 3.

One gate can handle approximately 8 trans-con turns per day. However, due to the fact that we are a common use terminal and that LAWA will assign the gates as efficiently as possible, there are a lot of scenarios that determine which gate we will be assigned. Some of the reasons we might have to go to another gate (other than the gate we usually operate out of) are: late arriving aircraft, aircraft mechanical delays (which delay an aircraft from vacating a gate), or weather/ATC delays. At the same time, we must keep in mind inflight and flight-ops duty rules, tarmac delay rules (which dictate that we can’t leave an aircraft with customers on the tarmac for very long), gate delay rules (which dictate that customers must be able to exit an aircraft that is parked at the gate if they should choose to), etc.

Sometimes you and your colleagues must deal with passengers who are upset. What’s the best way you’ve found to defuse what could be a volatile situation?

Due to safety or security reasons, there are many times we have to deliver a “no” message to our customers. However, we all know that it’s about how you deliver that message! My crewmembers know that the success of our company depends upon retaining our current customers and upon our current customers’ word-of-mouth recommendations to their friends and family. Most of the time, if our customers are upset, they just want to be listened to in a respectful manner.

Of course, sometimes my crewmembers need the help of a Supervisor and that’s when my Supervisors will step in to assist. Customer recovery is a big part of a Supervisor’s job and they usually resolve issues by listening, communicating clearly, and doing their best to come to an agreeable resolution.

What was your first airline job? How did the job prepare you for where you are today?

My first (and only) airline job has been with JetBlue. I have been with JetBlue for almost twelve years. After raising three children, I began my career with JetBlue at Long Beach Airport. While at LGB, I was promoted to Supervisor. When JetBlue began service at LAX in June, 2009, I was promoted to General Manager and opened up the JetBlue-LAX station.

I have been allowed to implement my vision for JetBlue-LAX by setting the tone of a respectful, safe, secure, and fun place to work. This makes for a happy team that has a terrific product, resulting in satisfied customers.

Want to learn about more airline jobs? My earlier interviews have been a Southwest Airlines flight dispatcher, a Hawaiian Airlines crew scheduler, an a low-cost airline fight attendant. 

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