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How to optimise your executive search in aviation

The pursuit of aviation leaders is intense and demanding. In an industry confronted with numerous unpredictable challenges annually, the necessity for strong leadership has never been more pronounced. Leaders bear the responsibility of steering airlines through both prosperous and tumultuous times, ensuring passengers receive an exceptional experience. Unlike other aviation professionals such as pilots and cabin crew, leadership positions are much more difficult to fill. In this article, we delve into the essence of executive search and how you can identify great aviation leaders. In addition, we talk you through the different ways you can enhance your executive search for optimal results.

What is executive search?

business woman in aviation

Within the realm of aviation, executive search stands as a specialised recruitment service dedicated to sourcing top-tier candidates for senior leadership positions. These highly desirable roles typically encompass individuals occupying the C-suite, including Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Commercial Officers (CCOs), Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), Chief Operating Officers (COOs), and beyond. Airlines often seek the expertise of specialist recruitment consultancies to help them with their search and selection. In addition, they help them find professionals with not only the right experience and skillset, but also the right leadership qualities and culture-fit which can be extremely difficult to find.

How is executive search different in aviation recruitment?

plane flying over building

Finding people at the executive level requires a whole different strategy. Our committed team at AeroProfessional are skilled in identifying senior professionals who can successfully carry out the rigorous duties of a leadership role. Unforeseeable events such as conflicts, economic tensions and new regulations make it more important than ever to hire capable, flexible leaders who can guide teams through difficult times.


Executive search is confidential in nature, allowing airlines to find the most suitable and experienced C-level candidates without drawing unnecessary attention internally or externally. Discretion is also crucial when replacing key executives like the CEO, to maintain operational stability and prevent disruption within the organisation. Likewise, C-level candidates typically avoid publicly disclosing their availability for new opportunities to safeguard their current employment relationships.


Using a specialist recruitment consultancy is the optimal choice for both employers and candidates. It provides employers with access to a diverse pool of senior professionals, saving them valuable time, effort, and stress. Similarly, candidates benefit from the consultancy's expertise, gaining exposure to various opportunities that align with their skills, preferences and career ambitions.

How can you identify and recruit great leaders?

business meeting

Great leaders can do more than just lead and achieve goals; they can communicate effectively, build trust, and navigate challenges with resilience. Identifying great leaders can be a daunting process, especially when you don’t first define what qualities you are looking for in a leader. Depending on the airline’s own unique needs, the type of individual capable of driving meaningful change, may vary in skills, personality traits, and experience levels.


Using an executive search and selection specialist offers distinct advantages in identifying and recruiting exceptional leaders. For example, expediting the process, and significantly reducing the candidate pool to those best suited to your specific recruitment needs. In addition, experienced recruitment specialists are able to distinguish unique leadership skills from a large candidate network that consists of thousands of aviation professionals.

What makes a good aviation leader?

Considering that each leader has their own leadership style and personality, we have chosen to emphasise some of the most essential and common traits that good aviation leaders are expected to have.


Industry knowledge and expertise


Aviation leaders must have a deep understanding of the industry, including regulatory requirements, market dynamics, and technological advancements, to effectively lead their organisations in this highly specialised field.


Collaborative and inclusive spirit

team collaboration

A team-oriented leader would explore new ideas and concepts introduced by the team, to develop further and become more competitive. Just like pilots plan for turbulence, aviation leaders equally have to take proactive steps with their team to cope with possible future challenges.

Preparation and time management

The aviation industry is incredibly demanding, with a myriad of tasks occurring simultaneously across various areas. Leaders must excel at working on precise schedules, coordinating operations, and ensuring that safety is consistently maintained at the highest levels.


Crisis management skills


Given the unpredictable nature of the aviation industry, leaders should already have a plan in place to implement in the event that a crisis occurs. They must be capable of managing crises through communicating transparently, and making quick, informed decisions under pressure.

3 reasons to use an executive search specialist for recruiting your aviation leader

1. Previous extensive experience in recruiting aviation leaders


Recruitment consultancies with a proven track record in executive search have demonstrated their ability to identify and attract top-tier talent within the aviation industry. They use their expertise to match candidates with the specific demands and intricacies of executive roles. Regardless of whether they are working with a start-up or a well-established airline, recruitment consultancies can deliver on both fronts.

2. Vast talent pool


Although the search for C-level candidates isn’t usually advertised on job boards or LinkedIn,

recruitment consultancies have a vast network of industry connections and resources to tap into. Through their extensive reach and knowledge, they can identify and engage with top-tier executives who may not be actively seeking new opportunities. This enables them to access a broader talent pool and present their clients with candidates who possess the specific skills, experience, and leadership qualities required for C-level positions.

3. Streamlined and confidential approach

Recruitment specialists understand the discrete nature of executive search and how that can impact airlines and their existing employees. For this reason, they approach the process with the utmost professionalism and confidentiality. Meanwhile, their expertise allows for a more targeted method to candidate sourcing and evaluation, resulting in faster and more successful placements of executive talent. Consultancies handle every aspect of the recruitment process with efficiency, saving airlines time and resources.

The bottom line

Great leaders excel not only in leading and delegating tasks but also in fostering a positive organisational culture and building strong relationships with colleagues and business partners. Executive search differs from traditional recruitment due to its confidential nature and the need to identify niche leadership skills. This requires a distinct approach and specialised expertise. With the dynamic aviation environment changing almost season by season, it’s essential for airlines to employ individuals who can take them to the next level, and executive search plays a crucial role in identifying such talent.


The AeroProfessional team are specialists in the recruitment and selection of executive level aviation professionals across the globe. Reach out to the team today to discuss your current hiring challenges and gain the expert advice and guidance you need to ensure that you hire the best-fit senior candidate for your organisation. You can also find out more about our executive search service on our main executive webpage.

Looking for an executive role in aviation?

Every year we help hundreds of senior level individuals individuals find rewarding new leadership roles within the aviation industry. Our comprehensive end-to-end executive search and recruitment service helps you match with the right executive role, in the right organisation for maximum success.


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