Inspiring Women Leaders in Transport

Women in Transport Network

Kay Ryan

Chief Commercial Officer for Loganair​

Women in Transport Network

Meet Kay

Kay Ryan joined Loganair as Commercial Director in February 2017. She was entrusted with leading what was essentially the creation from scratch of an airline brand and a sales and marketing function. This included a full suite of back office functions, such as a call centre and ticket accounting capability at the airline’s Glasgow headquarters. Under her stewardship Loganair won the European Regions Airline Association Airline of the Year 2018 and was also awarded the much coveted ‘Domestic Airline of the Year’ award in 2019 by the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association. Kay is a specialist in revenue and yield management and has comprehensive operational experience within the aviation, tour operator and hotel sectors. Her career also includes senior commercial positions with Thomas Cook Group, Thistle Hotels and Radisson Edwardian Hotels.
1. Tell us about your career so far and what attracted you to work in the Aviation industry?

I’ve been in hospitality, tour operating and aviation through all my career. I was with Thomas Cook for seven years and aviation felt like the natural progression post. I joined the aviation industry three years ago. My recent roles have consisted of revenue management, customer services and marketing. ​

2. What career highlight are you really proud of?

My proudest achievement was joining Loganair, at a stage where they were going to establish themselves as an independent entity. It had previously operated as a franchise partner under several airline companies, so I was brought in to help design and start this new brand in the aviation industry. This is always a high-risk activity and having successfully helped in setting up the brand and operating it independently, without losing customers, was very exciting. We recently announced new direct routes between Jersey and Edinburgh, Teesside and London Heathrow, plus several from the Isle of Man for this summer. It did feel good to be able to deliver such positive news this year! ​

3. What has been the most challenging part of your career and how did you overcome this?​

Prior to this year, I believed the merging of Thomas Cook with MyTravel and bringing the two cultures together was one of the biggest challenges of my career. However, it pales in comparison with the challenge of dealing with the pandemic. I overcame this by finding the energy to stay positive, be focused and lead in a time like this. You learn a lot about yourself in these sorts of situations. The basics become more important in these extreme situations. Honest and clear messages are required for the people you work with and your customers. ​

​The absolute key point of keeping communication going with customers has been challenging. The advice we followed internally is to try and understand the way the customer is feeling and take into account their situation, which we may not be aware of. That’s an important message I have shared with our call centre staff when they deal with customer queries and feedback. ​

4. How has the industry fared in managing the challenges posed by the pandemic and where will the industry be in the next five years?

We expect there to be more challenges in the future with reduced customer demand, and believe business travel will still take place, albeit far less than before. There will be a lot more focus on putting mechanisms in place, so people feel comfortable and safe to travel. This may also mean bringing more flexibility into the whole booking process; price alone will not be the deciding factor. Loganair has been fortunate as we had a strong relationship with our customers and the communities we serve. Over the years, we have built strong communications with our customers, who rely on us for travel to remote places, for hospital appointments for example. This makes us part of the fabric of the community, and we hope they will trust us with safe travel in the near future again. ​

5. What changes have you had to make in your working practices?​

The pandemic impacted different parts of the organisation in different ways. Whilst virtual meeting tools can help, it can impact communication with the team when working in a fast-moving, dynamic environment like the airline industry. In remote working, you have to be very disciplined as this style of working doesn’t lend itself completely to working creatively to solve problems. The commercial team had been attending the office on a regular but small basis, so we can plan accordingly. We also worked remotely and regrouped when needed to address issues. It is important to get the balance right whilst following government guidelines on social distancing and working from home whenever possible. We, without fail, have a daily team ‘catch up’ to ensure nothing is missed, and everyone is faring well under these very different conditions. ​

6. How have you remained positive during the crisis and looked after your wellbeing and mental health?​

Surrounding yourself with people who understand you is useful. It is essential to look after yourself regardless of the pandemic. You should do activities that keep the drive going and help in recharging your batteries. For me, taking the dog for walk and going outdoors has helped. Keep communicating with people and be honest and open about a tough day. Being authentic is important, more so than ever before. ​

7. What can the industry do to attract and retain high-calibre women?​

Having visible role models and mentors in leadership positions helps to attract women. It helps to combat the feeling that women may experience, about not belonging in the board room. Women should feel confident that even though they may do things differently, they deserve to be there. Sometimes the glass ceiling can be self-imposed. I was mentored by extraordinary people who saw more in me than I saw in myself. Confidence tends to breed confidence - so you need to believe in yourself. It's also important to identify people who can mentor you. I didn’t feel my gender imposed any barriers on me. The only barriers were the ones I put on myself. This realisation tends to come with more experience. ​

8. Are there any leaders within Aviation industry who have inspired you?​

I have been inspired by a few people in my career, most recently Jonathan Hinkles, CEO of Loganair, who is a very inspiring and motivational leader. The other person who made a difference to me was Ian Derbyshire, who made everyone feel important and brought everyone along with him in the journey, no matter how difficult or challenging. ​

9. What advice would you give your younger self?

It will be okay! It will work out! You will get there. ​

10. What would your three top tips be for women who want to break the glass ceiling?

1. 'Feel the fear and do it anyway!’​

2. Take up the challenges and give it everything you have. Get your head around how bad it will be as things will never be as bad as it seems. ​

3. Think positive, imagine yourself doing a great job to help you be successful. ​

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