Reversing a Decade of Decline

Pittsburgh International Airport Receives Airports Council International Award for Change Management.

By Alyson Walls

Published June 14, 2018

Read Time: 2 mins


Changing the mindset of disheartened employees, skeptical community members and the culture of an organization that feels defeated is no easy task – especially when it needs to happen yesterday.

This week, industry peers recognized Pittsburgh International Airport for doing just that in a startlingly short amount of time.

CEO Christina Cassotis, Chief Financial Officer Dale Cottrill and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Lisa Naylor accepted the award for Excellence in Human Resources “Change Management Program” from Airports Council International – North America at the Business of Airports Conference in Portland, Oregon, June 11-13.

Following loss of the airport’s hub status in 2004, PIT saw more than a decade of declining flights, revenue and employee morale. That changed in 2015, when new executive leadership brought fresh thinking and innovation to the airport’s business model, including, in effect, completely redrawing the org chart.

Today, the airport is picking up momentum, including doubling its nonstop destinations in three years, and better reflecting the resurgence of the region it serves. This transformation has improved customer satisfaction scores, increased community engagement and re-energized the airport team.

“When I arrived, the structure was very much top-down, with roles and responsibilities assigned to certain senior positions that did not make sense,” Cassotis said. “I needed to have a flat organization with everybody at the table who could help drive our agenda.”

Cassotis’ approach boiled down to this: “We’re not doing it the same way anymore.”

To further explain how she worked with HR to create a high-performing, diverse leadership team at PIT, Cassotis was featured in a panel discussion along with other airport CEOs from Portland, El Paso and Philadelphia during the conference.

“The most important thing that I did – and am still doing – is to communicate directly with very clear intentions and model the behavior that I expect to see in the team,” she said. “You can’t expect people to work hard if you won’t work hard.”

Cassotis said that high expectations and better collaboration among the airport team continues propelling the organization forward. “We have a new focus on innovation, creativity and thought diversity, and our entire team is advancing our airport and region,” she said.

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