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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What’s it like to be a flight attendant? One answers our questions.

What is your flight attendant really thinking about you?Kara

Kara Mulder is a flight attendant at a major low cost carrier, and the brains behind The Flight Attendant Life website. Popular posts include “Best Outfit To Wear On An Airplane” and “Dating And The Flight Attendant Life.”  I asked her to answer some questions about her job. She was kind enough to oblige.

What’s your job? Where are you based? How long have you had the job?

I am flight attendant, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I’ve been flying for 4.5 years.

2. What’s your least favorite part of your job?

My least favorite part of going to work is encountering the aircraft lavatory. It doesn’t matter if it’s at the beginning of a flight, or five hours into flight time, airplane lavs are disgustingly fowl! They just smell terrible! I hate smelling like airplane when I get back from working a trip.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

There are multiple reasons why I like being a flight attendant, but the main reasons are that I love the people that I work with, every day is different, and I have tons of days off to do fun things like travel to foreign countries, and learn to kite board.

What’s one thing people think they know about your job that’s actually incorrect?

I don’t get a lot of dates because I’m a flight attendant, and when a flight is delayed, I’m not getting paid for sitting around the airport.

What personality traits does one need to be a flight attendant?

I think the main personality trait that makes a happy flight attendant is learning to accept unexpected inconveniences, and enjoying the surprises that the job brings. Also, professionalism, punctuality, assertiveness, and a friendly attitude go a long way in the airline industry.

From the looks of your website, you try to have fun on layovers. What’s your favorite layover pastime?

Honestly, not a lot of fun happens on overnights, because layovers are built at minimum rest, which barely gives the crew enough time to get grab a bite to eat, and then go to sleep. But, the most fun that I have had on a layover was once, when my flight cancelled in Maui, I had a whole day to do whatever I wanted. So, I went kite boarding.

What’s the most common question you get from passengers?

Is this your normal route? What do you have? Do these seats recline? Where are we? (To this one I always wonder, ‘Why does it matter?’)

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Aviation jobs: A Southwest Airlines flight dispatcher explains his role

Southwest_Airlines_Boeing_737-7H4_N231WN

We’re starting an occasional feature here at L.A. Airspace in which we ask airline employees about their jobs. We generally won’t profile flight attendants or pilots, but instead, we’ll focus on the people behind the scenes.

Mark Johnson (1) (619x1024)Here’s our first installment, in which we learn about flight dispatch – or the folks who, with airline captains, make your flight plans.

Mark Johnson
Southwest Airlines
Manager of Dispatch Standards

Tell me about your job. What are your duties?

My role at Southwest Airlines is to provide support to the Operations Coordination Center, including our Dispatch group. I am responsible for developing and establishing policy and procedures, while interacting and communicating with other departments inside and outside of Southwest Airlines.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The Dispatch profession gives you the opportunity to be involved in nearly every facet of the airline. Each day brings a new challenge from managing disruptive weather to assisting network planning with future schedule development. I enjoy knowing that every time I come to the office I will be faced with a new challenge. As a Dispatcher, I feel as though I have the best job in the Company and love the work that I do.

How long have you been doing? How did you get started?

I am a licensed Dispatcher and have worked at regional, medium, and major airlines. I have been in the airline business since 1994, and I have worked in the Operational Control/Dispatch environment since 1998. As an Operations Agent for Southwest, I was exposed to the complexity that Dispatchers are exposed to on a daily basis. Those interactions inspired me to get my Dispatch license and make a career out of being a Dispatcher.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about your job?

The biggest misconception is that we work for ATC or do traffic separation. Typically we have to clarify that we represent the safety of each flight under our watch but work for the individual airline. We are a vital cog in the daily airline routine.

What skills does one need to be a flight dispatcher?

You have to be a great multi-tasker and can’t get rattled easily. As a Dispatcher you are expected to handle a multitude of situations, from the mundane to emergency situations. You have to be able to juggle those situations by prioritizing the most critical and time sensitive issues first. In addition, the Dispatch environment can be very stressful at times. So, you need patience and a good sense of humor to get through those difficult days. Every Dispatcher can recount some of their worst days on the job, but we keep coming back for more. We love our job and are some of the most passionate employees (and avgeeks!) in the business.

I believe in the United States, a dispatcher and a captain have equal control over the flight. In practice, how does that work?

This is true, the Dispatcher and Captain are equally responsible for the safe conduct of the flight. These same regulations are also in place in Canada and a few other Countries. The concept is trained at all airlines that are required to use a Dispatcher. The Dispatcher and Captain each have to sign the Dispatch Release stating that it will be conducted safely. And, if something changes where there is a chance the flight might not be operated safely (weather en route, etc.), they will take appropriate steps to get the flight safely on the ground. The concept is called “operational control.” The flight will not be conducted unless the Dispatcher AND the Captain agree that it can be conducted safely. This rule is stated in the Federal Regulations and is a required part of the business. I believe Flight Crews have come to rely on Dispatch for the vast amount of information and resources we are able to provide.

What else should we know about you or your job?

Every commercial flight operated in the United States that requires a Dispatcher has a person on the ground watching over them. We communicate constantly with flights to alert them to changing airport conditions as well as changing weather conditions. Our goal is to ensure every customer, Crew Member, or piece of cargo gets to where it is going safely and efficiently.Our livelihood is dependent on providing the highest level of safety and customer service to every flight and customer under our watch. I’m an avid aviation person (AVGEEK) and love having a job that is also my hobby.

Interested in learning more about flight dispatchers? Check out my interview from June with Lufthansa’s Marcus Pabst, as he explained to me how he plans a flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles. 

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