It would be fair to say there were a few raised eyebrows among the aviation establishment when Carolyn McCall was appointed chief executive of EasyJet in July 2010, succeeding Andy Harrison. She joined from the helm of Guardian Media Group at a time of major upheaval for the airline, as its own home-grown operational issues were exacerbated by a summer of air traffic disruption coming on the back of the earlier ash-cloud airspace closure. And joining from a non-airline background, she had no aviation experience to fall back on.
"I never worry about what people say until I've actually had a go," she says. "With an airline there are other things that you have to think about that are not commercial or operational management, so I kind of understood some people's surprise at my appointment. As part of my due diligence into the job I found out what needed to be done was thinking about the positioning of the airline, the customers and the people, and fixing the operation. I think people forget how 'operational' the media business is. There are a lot of similarities in terms of management of either the operation or the commercial side of the business - revenue is revenue."
McCall says good inventory management is central to running businesses in both industries. "In the media business you have one day to sell what you've got, whether its air time or space, and you have to maximise the yield. And it's exactly the same as a seat on an airline - you can't sell that seat twice on that day. So I found the commercial side very easy to grasp when I got here."