“The industry is in a state of constant change. But that is what makes it so exciting”
Aviation expert Prof Dr Christoph Brützel discusses the Aviation Management programme, the fine details of business administration – and the romantic world above the clouds
IUBH: Mr Brützel, as a passenger, one imagines flying to be somewhat romantic. Is that really the case once you look behind the scenes?
Prof Dr Christoph Brützel: (laughs) No, not even being in the cockpit is romantic anymore! Aviation is an intensely competitive business, incredibly complex and planned down to the very last detail. It has changed immensely.
IUBH: Was it different when you started?
Brützel: When I began working in the 1980s, the romantic era was just ending. That image dates back to the time after the Second World War, when aviation was a public system and state operated airlines were not so much in competition with each other. National pride certainly played a role, but also team spirit, which united everyone from the captain to the technician.
IUBH: How did you come to join the industry?
Brützel: My wife was with Lufthansa and because I had studied finance and information technology I joined the company’s controlling department.
IUBH: So you are a classic lateral recruit – quite different to those who complete the study programme that you have set up. Does their specialist profile help them to gain a foothold in the industry?
Brützel: We are very proud that 87% of our graduates go on to work in the industry as soon as they graduate, as they are in such demand. They don’t only find jobs in Germany, but also with large airlines in the Middle East, for example, which are growing very rapidly at the moment.
IUBH: Purely from the perspective of content – is such a specialised degree really a sensible thing?
Brützel: I expect that you have the Humboldt ideals in mind when asking this question. Allow me to answer with two aspects: Firstly, our study programme is sensible because it provides an overview of the entire industry. The whole of aviation is very strongly functional, the handling agent has a very specific job – as does the pilot or the engine mechanic. In this environment it is incredibly important to know not only your own area of expertise, but also those areas of your colleagues. This is the only way that you can assess what effects your own decisions will have throughout the entire organisational machine. With us, you get to learn about everything from flight safety all the way to freight transportation – and that is a very good qualification for starting a career.
IUBH: And the second aspect?
Brützel: In our study programme, business administration plays a large role. And if you con- sider in what kind of industry its methods, processes and approaches can be applied best – then aviation is predestined for it. An airliner costs fifty million euros. That is, for example, interesting for a demonstration of investment calculations. How do I forecast cash flows? Or the type of financing – do I lease the aeroplane or buy it? What effect does that have on tax, capital flow and other factors?
IUBH: And you also need passengers.
Brützel: Exactly, and we cover that with the subject of marketing. And, of course, revenue management: How can I be sure that I don’t sell a ticket today for 100 euros and then don’t have any more tomorrow when somebody would have paid 120 euros for it. Nowhere are procedures like these as perfected as in the aviation industry. Our graduates are able to deal well with all kinds of business management instruments.
IUBH: You’ve been in the industry for over three decades now – are there still developments which surprise you?
Brützel: Oh, yes, the business is so complex that I’m still in the learning curve (laughs). For example, at the moment they are experimenting with the business model of air- ports becoming travel operators. Today, when you book a trip, a journey with a connecting flight, the airline is responsible for getting you onto your onward flight. And now there are airports which are get- ting involved at exactly that point: You arrive with airline A, for example, and fly on with airline B – and that changeover risk is being carried by the airport. Endless similar models are currently being discussed and that will have a considerable influence on aviation and the airline alliances. The industry is in a state of constant change – but that is what makes it so exciting.