“I had a fantastic time but it is with mixed emotions that I leave JFK. There are a lot of challenges and development which is great. That will unfortunately happen without me but will continue with my successor. I am off to a fantastic new challenge at the Brisbane Airport Corporation and will miss the people , collaboration and community. This is a great group,” as Gert-Jan de Graaff summarized his years at JFK Airport as CEO and President of JFKIAT. He added “I am confident my successor Roel Huinink will see the value of continuing relationships with the JFK community. That’s how it is supposed to work. Collaboration is key.”
And collaboration is a word used extensively by de Graaff as he explains his success at T4 because of the cooperation from his staff, Port Authority and business partners. The result is success, “that’s the way it works-to stimulate collaboration” he said in many of his public comments. He also maintains that growth and success depend on the support of organizations. They need to work with the experienced individuals and to bring in fresh blood with new ideas to keep growing and create cohesion. Referring to the Terminal 4 TFAC organization, he said “ It is Incredibly important to have organizations such as TFAC for feedback and camaraderie.
Last year the Governor of New York began an ambitious plan to rebuild NY airports. de Graaff thinks this is wonderful. “I think it is a great ambition to grow and improve in all ways. It is Exciting to be part of the plan and IAT will be part and big supporter of the next big step from the Governor and Port vision by working together”.
“NYC is basically the capital of the world and deserves great airports. It needs world class airports. As a result there will be an economic benefit with the new opportunity to invest, improve and to provide passengers with better service”, he commented.
However he added that it is important to remember that airlines do not have unlimited funds yet have to participate in investments which make sense. But he says that JFKIAT has and will continue to invest in facility expansion.
His successor Roel Huinink will have the opportunity to partner in building for this future. Said de Graaff, “I know him very well. He has extensive experience in many different areas of management, engineering, retail and commercial development He knows the full scope of terminal management and will bring solutions that have been successful at other airports”. Huinink begins his term August 1.
Regarding the recent move towards more Port governance, de Graaff believes that the terminals are well developed and well managed. There is limited influence from the Port but as a public-private partnership, we work with them. He believes that a lot of JFK criticism comes from the frustrations of just getting to the airport with the traffic playing a big part.
“The airport itself has good roadways, signage and nicely landscaped. Again he points out that corroboration is the key to finding public solutions with government and business partners.
Asked whether the proposed Port Authority wage increases will impact JFKIAT, he did not think so.
“I believe in using third party contractors since they are the experts in what they do. They have the particular skills and technology we don’t have. Our philosophy is the find the vest in class performance for our behalf” ,he said. So, the wage issue will not directly affect how JFKIAT does business.
Discussing his new position as CEO of the private Brisbane Authority, he said this will differ because he will oversee the entire private airport, not a private terminal in a public airport such as JFK. One of his welcome challenges at Brisbane will be to build a new runway “ This will be the world’s first privately funded runway that is planned for 2020 completion” he proudly remarks. Having worked there before, he is acquainted with the operation and he actually worked on the initial idea of building the new runway a decade ago.
Mr.de Graaff believes that another important part of a successful group is to show appreciation for staff and business partners. He points to the annual Employee Day celebration and the Holiday party.
He is personally very involved in both. In fact, this CEO has taken many a cream pie in face as part of the employee day festivities. He is also proud of the January holiday party.
When asked why this party is done in the middle of January he smiles and said it part of a Dutch tradition. After all the December parties and holidays are over, it is a good time to informally get together and start a new year. He makes a point of thanking SSP food service for doing a great job at these events.
And a great job Gert-Jan de Graaff did while at JFK.