Corinne Martínez, Susana Espinosa and Teresa Gutiérrez share their trajectory and the challenges they face as heads of scale.
Traveling is a pleasure that we can enjoy thanks to the work of professionals like those at Iberia. Their daily work means that we can not worry from the moment we arrive at the airport and leave our bags until we pick them up to start a new adventure.
This March 8, International Women’s Day, it is worth noting the work done by the women of the company. Since 2018, as we already have at magasIN, Iberia has launched initiatives to make female talent visible and promote the presence of women (SDG 5) at all levels.
To find out about their work, today we are talking to three Iberia stopover managers who do not talk about their career, their work, the challenges they face every day, the challenges they have overcome, and we take the opportunity to ask them for advice on traveling that they have learned thanks to to your experience.
The three heads of scale
Corinne Martínez is the manager of the San Sebastián, Vitoria and Pamplona airports, María Susana Espinosa Guardiola of the Ibiza airport and Teresa Gutiérrez Rodríguez is the manager of the La Palma airport.
None of them had thought when they were little that they would end up working in an airport. “When I was little, for me aviation was always related to vacations. And yes, the truth is that I have always liked the hustle and bustle of airports,” says Martínez.
For his part, Espinosa confessed to magasIN that he entered Iberia at the age of 18 and had never been on a plane, “but I have to admit that the world of aviation captivated me from the first moment.” Along the same lines, Gutiérrez points out that “as soon as you meet him, he hooks you up.”
They explain to us that in their work they carry out various functions that include planning and organizing human and material resources, carrying out handling (operations related to passenger transport) to the assisted companies, maintaining relations with and representing the assisted companies and ensuring compliance with safety and quality requirements by staff and subcontractors.
In addition, they emphasize that it is common in Iberia to see women in their positions. In fact, Martínez says that the last two heads of scale with whom he has worked were women. Espinosa points out that she has been on scales in which all managers were.
“When I took over as service manager in 2001, I joined a three-man team with a generation gap of approximately 20 years, but I must say that it was a great experience and I remember it very fondly,” says Gutiérrez.
Both for the manager of the San Sebastián, Vitoria and Pamplona airports, and for the manager of the Ibiza airport, the biggest challenge they face is that every day is a challenge. “A multitude of factors affect us, from the weather to a breakdown. Everything can have an impact,” says Martínez.
Gutiérrez tells us that the biggest challenge for her is “getting the motivation of each team member, so that they feel they are a fundamental part of being able to meet the expectations of our client companies.”
For them, one of the biggest challenges they have faced in their career is the change of scale. “When you already control the peculiarities of your airport, you have created links with your team, starting in a new city with new colleagues and a different operation enriches you a lot, but it is still a challenge,” says Corinne Martínez.
To this, Susana Espinosa adds that in Ibiza it is a great challenge to have enough staff. “The high rental prices make it very difficult for workers to come from the peninsula and on the island there is a large supply of work and little demand.” Although, for Teresa Gutiérrez, the biggest challenge has been dealing with the management of the pandemic and the volcanic eruption.
On the other hand, one of the best aspects of his job is the team. “The human quality of the teams at Iberia continues to surprise me on a daily basis,” says Martínez. Espinosa points out that two days are never the same. “You can go from spending a day without leaving the office planning to go to an audit of an assisted company. Sometimes it’s a bit stressful, but I love it.”
We continue talking with the three heads of scale, one by one, to find out about their trajectory, the particularities of their work and we ask them for advice on traveling.
The weather of north
Corinne Martínez arrived in Spain, after two years studying Medicine, to learn Spanish. In Alicante he found out about the Iberia entrance exams as an administrative officer and he applied. “I started in passenger service, then I was responsible for quality of the environment and relations with companies, then responsible for operational safety and, finally, head of scale since 2019.”
Currently, he is the manager of the northern airports, where the weather has a great impact. “Unscheduled activity is very important at all three airports, which requires very significant adaptability and flexibility. Still, each airport is unique.”
He explains that San Sebastián is the most seasonal, going from having three destinations in winter to nine in summer. “We also handle quite a few private flights as a major pick-up during the film festival.”
In Pamplona the activity is quite regular, although they have a peak in the San Fermines. The one in Vitoria is the only 24-hour airport in the entire region, so it has a lot of night activity, “especially with sports flights from La Liga soccer and La Liga ABC basketball.”
His travel advice: “Buying through each company’s website is the best way to be properly informed of any changes in real time.”
The summer in Ibiza
Susana Espinosa studied Law at the University of Alicante and practiced as a lawyer for several years. “I combined my studies with working at the Alicante airport as an administrative agent in the passenger area.”
In 2002 she was appointed head of the Passenger Unit. “From there I added to my responsibilities the areas of coordination and assistance to the plane, until I was appointed head of stopover in Alicante in 2013.” In 2015 she was transferred to Malaga with the same position and since 2018 she has held it at the Ibiza airport.
This is the airport with the highest seasonality in the world. “The difference is enormous, but not only at the airport, but throughout the island. The turning point is the opening and closing dates of the nightclubs, which take place between April and October,” he comments.
Activity is multiplied by four in summer, going from a daily average of 18 flights to 85. The number of workers also varies, according to the number of flights served. “In fact, the most widespread contractual figure is that of the discontinuous landline, who always works in the high season.”
Seasonality is decisive in his work. In low season they are dedicated to preparing the high season. “Starting in February and March, the companies that are going to fly in the summer begin to contact us to update procedures and from Easter the activity gradually increases, reaching its maximum level in August. Those months we are all very focused on daily operations, which is usually quite complicated.”
His advice for traveling: “Get your boarding pass well in advance. That way you can secure your seat and go to the airport with more peace of mind.” In addition, he stresses that “you have to travel with companies that guarantee good care if something unforeseen arises, for example, delays or cancellations.”
Teresa Gutiérrez has a degree in English Philology. He started at Iberia at La Palma airport in April 1988 as an administrative agent. At that time, the first charter flights began to operate at this airport.
“From then on they sent me to different training courses, both in the passenger area and in the cargo sheet and coordination, since in small airports like this the staff is versatile,” he says. Two years later, she was offered to assume the duties of supervisor and, later, head of service. Finally, in 2008, he accepted the duties of manager of this airport.
His work was greatly affected by the eruption of the La Palma volcano. “I remember it as a very difficult stage, not only in the management of the operation, but also of the people.”
She was in charge of coordinating the necessary actions with the airport manager for the flight operation to be carried out. Also informing the client companies on a daily basis of the status of the platform and almost daily planning the necessary resources to attend to incidents or for the operation of flights if the situation allowed.
The decisions that were then made were many: “Notify the pilots so that they report to the tower the state of the ash on the approach and that the tower report it to us. Record the landing of the first flight to check if it raised a trail of ash. Review the cleaning of steps and platform first thing in the morning, before the arrival of the first plane”.
“Check the individual protection equipment that each employee had to use. In addition, an alternative was sought to protect the aircraft assistance equipment from volcanic ash and it was decided to avoid, as far as possible, split schedules for personnel who lived on the side of the volcano to minimize the risk on the road, among many others,” he adds.
The most difficult thing for her was trying to put aside the worry and uncertainty that a natural disaster like this generates “in order to concentrate on work.” Also trying to keep the spirits of the workers in the middle of something that they did not know how or when it was going to end.
Facing future emergencies, he emphasizes that they learned the first measures to carry out to minimize the risks to people and aircraft.
His advice for travel: “Arriving early enough will avoid unnecessary stress and make you enjoy the trip. Another tip is not to put important items such as documentation or medicines in your checked baggage. And it is very important to identify your checked baggage.”