Celine Shabbas is head of UK trading and sits on the operating board of Air Partner, the air charter provider that boasts 20 offices in 17 countries around the world

When did you become interested in aviation?

At a young age I enjoyed reading about early pioneers of flight, especially Amy Johnson's achievements. I wasn't convinced I could train to be a pilot, but I had a strong interest in aviation. I studied biochemistry at Glasgow University and then worked in scientific market research. I met an inspirational female pilot and realised it was feasible for a woman to pursue an aviation career.

Celine Shabbas
 © Air Partner
Shabbas: Amy Johnson's achievements sparked her interest in aviation

What was your first aviation job?

Training as an air traffic controller at Biggin Hill airport. While there I began pilot training. Unfortunately, all airline commercial training sponsorship programmes were scrapped following 9/11, meaning the end of subsidised prices and I could no longer afford to maintain my hours.

How has your career developed?

I joined the operations team at Air Partner in 2002 and two years later was selected for the fast track management training programme. As part of the scheme you move between departments, and around the divisions of freight, private jet and commercial airliner charter and operations. Time in one of the offices abroad is also an important feature. Being seconded to the Paris office was a terrific experience, and I learned French. It helped me understand how important it is to respect cultural differences and how these affect how work gets done.

The hardest part was learning about each aircraft inside and out. As a charter provider you have to know all the details.

After Paris I returned to the Crawley headquarters, near London Gatwick, to build the marketing department and four years later, when the team had grown from one to seven-strong, I was promoted to group marketing director. In May 2010 I was appointed director of UK trading.

What's been your most challenging time?

Realising that Air Partner lacked real marketing activity. I set about building a team and concentrating on service delivery, client care and promoting the company. Added to that, I led the rebranding of the Air Partner Group worldwide. This took two years. It was a real challenge to make such a big change, to give all divisions their own identity.

What does your typical week involve?

My role is people-focused. I have responsibility for service delivery, retaining clients, generating new business and making sure the team progresses. I review budgets, ensure traders are on track with the company's strategy and report to the board on how performance levels are measuring up against objectives. Recruitment is a key area.

What do you enjoy about your role?

The team is important to me. We have young, ambitious people and I enjoy seeing them develop and learn new skills. It's satisfying to see new recruits develop into aviation professionals. I work closely with our in-house learning and development team to ensure every team member is motivated and able to progress. Happy people are productive people.

What next for you at Air Partner?

Developing new geographical markets is challenging and key to growth, so I'm looking forward to that. I will be developing new and existing products, recruiting, and working on sales and marketing strategies. Next year is our 50th anniversary so there will be major events to arrange.

Source: Flight International