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Meet the Regional Board: Brisbane Airport

  • 30 Nov 2020

In the ‘Meet the Board’ series, we are featuring and introducing the members of the ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Board. We will get to know them better by learning about their leadership style, their thoughts on the next generation of leaders and, unavoidably, the impact of the pandemic. 


Mr. Gert-Jan de Graaff took on the role of Chief Executive Officer at Brisbane Airport Corporation in 2018. His extensive career spans airport and commercial management roles in Australia, Europe, South America and the USA.  


Mr. De Graaf joined the Regional Board in June 2020.  


Which leadership skills have served you most? 

Very early on in my career I learned that there are four essential elements to being a successful leader at an airport. I refer to these as the four C’s.  

  • The first is Collaboration, because there is nothing you can do alone at an airport. An airport is a place where there is always a new challenge to solve, but we can tackle anything when we work together. 
  • The second is Communication, you cannot collaborate if you are not listening and being open and honest about your intentions.  
  • The third is Courage, because airport management is not always easy and you need to have the courage to speak up, make hard decisions and ask difficult questions.  
  • The fourth and most important one is Care, because taking care of your employees, customers, shareholders, and the community is essential for successfully managing and developing an airport. 
Mr. Gert-Jan de Graaff, CEO Brisbane Airport

Mr. Gert-Jan de Graaff, CEO Brisbane Airport

Brisbane Airport

Brisbane Airport (© Brisbane Airport)

Terminal at Brisbane Airport (© Jen Dainer)

Terminal at Brisbane Airport (© Jen Dainer)

What have you had to do differently in terms of leading your team during the pandemic?  

Clear and consistent communication and the sharing of information is always important, but even more so during times of uncertainty.  


The pandemic presented us with a whole new challenge around social distancing and lock downs which made face-to-face communication mostly impossible.


That meant we had to find new ways to keep people informed during the rapidly-changing situation.  

We responded by increasing the frequency of our communication and using a mix of video calls, live stream townhalls, and vlogs to keep our stakeholders up to date. These forms of communication have proven to be so successful that they now form an important part of how we do business. 


What are you most proud of at your airport? 

That is simple: the people working at the airport. There are 24,000 airport workers at Brisbane Airport, and they are making a difference every day. We are a 24/7 operation and no matter what time of day or night, the weather situation, or the challenge, the BNE-team is there to serve the customers and the community. While only a few of those 24,000 workers are directly employed by Brisbane Airport Corporation, they are all an integral part of the airport community. Together we are enabling social, cultural, and economic life in our beautiful city and state. 


Very early on in my career I learned that there are four essential elements to being a successful leader at an airport. I refer to these as the four C’s. 

Gert-Jan de Graaff

CEO, Brisbane Airport 

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