Monday, June 24, 2024

Interim Director lays out priorities for Shreveport airports

by BIZ Magazine

Interim Airport Director Stephanie Tucker laid out her four focus areas for the Shreveport Regional and Downtown Airports during the Shreveport Airport Authority June meeting that was held Thursday, June 17.

Tucker, who replaced the previous director of airports Wade Davis after he resigned the position May 27, was selected as interim director of airports by the Shreveport Airport Authority Board of Directors on June 4.

Tucker noted she was only on day nine of her tenure, but the self-described “aviation geek” wanted to communicate her vision to the public and be transparent.

She told the board her priorities are infrastructure, employee engagement, customer experience, and economic stability.

“None of these are more important than the others. The team and I are going to work these together,” she pledged.

Tucker previously worked at New Orleans International Airport as a deputy city attorney and at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport as the manager of properties, new business development, and advertising, as well as a division manager overseeing multiple revenue generating entities.

When discussing her focus on infrastructure, Tucker said, “I Walk the terminal, I see the torn seats. And, there are issues outside the terminal. We need to focus on what the short term and long-term fixes are.”

On her employee engagement focus area, Tucker pointed out she is the 12th airport director in 15 years.

“Wow. That’s a lot. (The employees) have been through a lot,” she said. “They are a professional, hardworking, lean team. They are what makes this airport great. If they’re happy, my job is easy.”

When discussing the focus on customer experience, Tucker said the citizens of Shreveport and stakeholders are all their customers. She continued, “If you have happy customers, you have happy employees, board, and citizens. I want to make sure I’m reaching out to meet all of our stakeholders.”

Tucker said the economic stability focus area stemmed from Federal Aviation Agency’s requirements that Shreveport Airports be economically sustainable. She added that means driving revenue up because the airports are not funded by the city and do not receive tax dollars.

“We have to figure out how we increase non-aeronautical revenue, like concessions, and aeronautical revenue, which are the airlines. I’m receptive to new ideas and like to think outside the box,” Tucker said.

She did admit that the “elephant in the room” that she has already been asked about during her short tenure is, “When is Southwest (Airlines) coming?” She said answer is not when, but how.

“(The answer) is easy — supply and demand. For new airlines to come and for our current airlines to expand, don’t wave at the airport as you drive over to Dallas,” Tucker said. “The short-term gain for a cheaper fair is the long-term opportunity Shreveport has lost. This is our hometown, this is our airport.”

She backed up her assertion by highlighting the growing traffic of 2021, but also explaining how it is down from the pre-pandemic 2019 numbers.

The airport had encouraging numbers with 1,300 passengers moving through the airports in early June. Year to date, total passenger air traffic is up 4% over 2020, but down 45% when compared to 2019.

“Last year has been a challenge, but we need to put in the past and go forward,” Tucker said.

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