Behind the wings: Katerina, Flight Operations Officer

Meet #DreamTeam's Katerina Pantoulia, Flight Operation Officer

Designer of flight plans; the core of Europe's leading private jet company

Katerina joined GlobeAir as a flight operation officer back in 2016. Today, she is a proud member of the #DreamTeam Operations Control Center. Katerina is also responsible for training young flight operation officers to master the Flight Operations Officer's profession as they begin their career at GlobeAir.

Katerina is an excellent resource to pave the way for GlobeAir's newly recruited members. She is also responsible for preparing them for their final assessment with the Head of Ground Operations as they become ready to work in complete independence. With a long experience in different business aviation sectors, Katerina is one of the best examples of stamina and "passion into profession"; we are happy to discover more about her challenging job through her experience.

1. When did your passion for aviation begin?

A passion discovered very early in life

Katerina is half-Greek half Filipino; her international background and family history – with her dad as a sailor – have played a significant role in her decision to take on a career in aviation. We have asked her if she could recall the first time she was fascinated by aviation.

I graduated in accounting and finance when I was still in Greece; I remember starting a few jobs in this area but never being excited about my career at this point. When I was still in Greece, however, I had the lucky chance to kick start my aviation profession as a Flight Attendant for a charter company that served Europe and the Middle East – it was like a dream!

My passion for aviation started when I was very young. I used to fly with my mother from Athens to the Philippines. I remember looking at the flight attendants and the crew dreaming of becoming one of them one day... I still get so emotional when I see Singapore Airlines’ flight attendants. It brings back the feelings I had as a child when I admired their noble ways and the uniforms they wore!

As exciting as a flight attendant's life can be, I wanted to dig deeper and work in the operations much more than being up in the air my entire day. Athens was great because that's where I got in touch with Signature Flight Support Greece. For this well-established handling company, which – funnily enough – is one of GlobeAir's most trusted handling companies as well, I took on different roles ending up staying more than seven years. The experience spent working at Signature Flight Support made me grow a lot as I worked different roles from my career's start to end.

I was first employed as a Customer Service Representative and later on as a Ramp Agent and Operation Controller. It was like seeing the whole spectrum of the most critical operations for a handling company, and I am forever grateful to Signature for this valuable experience.

After a long time working for a handling company, I felt ready for the next challenge. I applied to work at GlobeAir because I wanted to learn how to design a smart flight plan – knowledge I was missing from my previous working experiences. I joined GlobeAir in 2016, and I was very excited to see the perspective of a private jet charter company. As part of the #DreamTeam, I learned how to file a flight plan and am happy to pass on my knowledge to others.

2. What’s your current role at GlobeAir?

What does a Flight Operations Officer do and what is your daily job like?

They say that a Flight Operations Officer's duty is the core of any airline, and I can fully confirm this for GlobeAir. You function as a bridge between the passenger and the customer care team. In very few words, you make sure that flights can happen!

Once the Operations Control Center receives the information from the Customer Care Team – who has just sold a flight – we are ultimately responsible for making sure that there is the availability of aircraft and airports and making sure the passengers have all they need for their flight.

A Flight Operations Officer is like the conductor of the orchestra. We are constantly in contact with several departments who are closely interlinked. We are in constant chats with crew in order to have quick and steady communications about weather and rerouting options as well as making sure we can monitor the performance of our aircraft.

There is a lot of communication going on between our team and airports, of course. We need to know their opening hours and their regulations in detail. Ours is a very regulated job with much documentation to review and send back to the airports’ authorities. We are scanning the passengers’ flight requests and making sure that all is tidy for the flight. There is an endless list of things that a Flight Operations Officer has to consider when scheduling a flight. From arranging time slots, permits, handling services (including parking, fuel, custom and immigration regulations, fire category, wheelchair availability, de-icing services and all additional services our discerning passengers may need on the day of the flight.)

A Flight Operations Officer at GlobeAir will often be in contact with the Maintenance Team and CAMO as well so that we are 100% sure that our private jets are ready to take off. Then comes the coordination with the handling company; that’s when the conversation is about slots, permits, fire cat, customs and immigrations and ATC. Our own job is then to monitor the flight. Flight watching is important to keep alert of every flight status. Has the aircraft landed? Has it taken off? All this constant monitoring is necessary and it takes a lot of care. We have to be there to help coordinate when a diversion is needed so that we can help our passengers and crew. In such cases, it is important to match the available aerodromes with the preferred choices for our customers.

The job itself is quite challenging as things can change very quickly, and regulations are strict and differ from country to country. At GlobeAir, there is no single day like the previous. We deal with present and future flights while always monitoring weather changes and trying to optimize our fleet.

3. What do you like about business aviation compared to commercial aviation?

Private aviation is for people who love challenges. You can never get bored as days are very different from one another. The workload's pace changes; it can be very dynamic, and you must be somebody who cares for details while working. You must keep many variables under control, one being our discerning customers' wishes – which always come first.

You must be a good communicator or learn how to become one! Being a Flight Operations Officer is a constant flow of information from the crew to the customer care team. Therefore, you need to be able to filter and pass on all relevant and updated communications.

Private aviation can develop your personality and turn you into somebody who can apply relative cognitive thinking as your point of view may or may not match with our passengers' or colleagues'.

You stick to private aviation because you can't go without this ever-changing yet very rigorous environment. It is about passion and how fast you can adapt yourself to the circumstances at any given moment.

4. GlobeAir is international, what do you like and what can you learn from it?

What does it mean to be a member of the GlobeAir #DreamTeam

GlobeAir is a dynamic and international company. You can have the honour to work and meet people who come from all around the world, learning about their culture, exchanging and growing through new perspectives. I cannot compare it to any work environment I have previously experienced; thanks to my colleagues, I travel every day on a different journey, and it is life-enriching. Our routine may be full of challenges, but we are used to overcoming them as a #DreamTeam.

How can your job have a positive impact on GlobeAir customers? How do you think you can make a difference?

Good planning and proactiveness are critical. When you face a very hectic situation at work, you have to keep calm and evaluate all the available possibilities instead of reacting fast but with no strategy. You have to think forward and never focus on your department only as one’s decision could set off a series of chain events that may have consequences for the whole company. I offer my knowledge and dedication to make sure that our discerning customers are always satisfied with the GlobeAir experience – we may work "behind the wings" but we play a significant role to fulfil the company’s mission after all. I have been practising yoga for a long time now, which has developed my skills as a patient listener. I like to think that this is an essential soft skill for the job. You always need a calm approach and the willingness to help others.

5. How does COVID-19 impact your job today, and how did it make you grow?

The pandemic has been a massive challenge for businesses, especially for aviation – this is no news. At GlobeAir, we are happy to offer our services to those unable to travel as commercial airlines are offering fewer and fewer possibilities and won’t be flexible enough to adapt to the new travel regulations. In contrast, we can provide very efficient day trip options.

Every day, we have to deal with much paperwork coming in for the passengers and the crew. Documents are needed for people to travel freely from one country to the other, and they are continually demanding new travel’s requirements and changing very quickly. It could be that the documents which are needed for a passenger to fly change within two days, and it is our job to be on top of those changes offering smooth solutions for our passengers.

We have to make sure that regular checks happen for the crew and passengers. We have to monitor our crew’s movements around Europe to know about extra covid-19 measures when entering or exiting a specific country.

Airport opening times have changed as well; some small airports have stayed close after the big covid-19 wave in 2020, and the Operations Control Center need to be aware of all this information.

We regularly check the NOTAM’s to ensure that airport facilities are 100% operative to avoid disruptions.

Since the crisis has begun, I felt fortunate to be able to work. Personally, the pandemic was another reminder that in life, we should not take things for granted; what counts are the small things.

6. What does it mean to be a woman who works in private aviation?

In aviation, I have been trained by wonderful women, and I hope to transfer my knowledge to others in the years to come. When I think of women in aviation, I picture a dynamic and resilient kind of woman; we are people who excel at their job, hard workers and able to handle all sudden challenges. However, this is true for men in aviation as well – big applause to all of us!

7. The future of aviation is?

The future of aviation will soon be bright again, and the sky will once again be busy – hopefully with aviation companies who care a bit more about the environment. I still believe in the people behind aviation and inside the cockpit; although there are many rumours around it, I still hope that people will still operate flights and that we won’t go fully automated.

Katerina's Bio

Katerina was born in Greece, and she is half Filipino. She holds a degree in finance, and she is an aviation specialist. Katerina loves travelling and spending time with the people she loves. She is a spiritual human being who loves reading and practising yoga.

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