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THE BIG INTERVIEW


Taking flight in a new role at East Midlands Airport


It's fair to say Clare James MBE has faced a baptism of fire since taking over as managing director at East Midlands Airport in the summer. From firefighting the local impact of the aviation industry's global collapse to promoting the airport's rapidly growing cargo operation, she has plenty to keep her busy, as she explains to Dan Robinson.


“If anyone said I could be as busy as I am with no passengers, I’d have challenged them,” says Clare James. “But I don’t seem to have enough hours in the day or days in the week at the moment.” The coronavirus pandemic has struck a dagger


through the heart of an aviation industry that, less than 12 months ago, had been enjoying unbridled growth in an era of expanding globalisation and cheaper travel. Travel quarantines, safety fears and job losses have emptied planes, leading two-thirds of the world’s aircraft to be placed into storage in April and the International Air Transport Association forecasting revenues to fall by $419bn this year – half of what airlines earned in 2019. For East Midlands Airport (EMA), the impact of the


global travel collapse is clear, with this year’s projected 800,000 passengers just 17% of last year’s tally of 4.7 million. From lobbying Government for financial support and rapid testing at the border, to preserving jobs and the very future of the airport – sandwiched by a thriving cargo operation – Clare was greeted by a stacked in-tray as she walked through the terminal doors at Castle Donington to take up her managing director post in July. “It’s an absolute privilege to be here and I’m


absolutely committed to getting the best for the airport, but it’s quite a challenge as it’s not something the


26 business network December 2020/January 2021


aviation industry has had to deal with before,” she says. “There’s an awful lot to deal with in terms of how we


build back from the unprecedented times we find ourselves in right now. “But it doesn’t take away from the fact that we have


a really good regional asset here in the East Midlands that has a lot to offer, both as a gateway for people to go on holiday and the vital role it plays in supplying the UK with its cargo operation.”


CLARE’S THREE PRIORITIES


FOR EAST MIDLANDS AIRPORT 1. Restore passenger confidence and get EMA flying again


2. Continue to grow the cargo operation so it remains a key UK and global asset


3. Put EMA “on the map” post-Covid by tapping into what it offers the region and country


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