Robin Gibson has spent 20 years working in the aviation industry although minorities and women are traditionally underrepresented in aviation and commercial management. Fraport USA is a division of Fraport AG which is one of the world’s largest airport operators with revenues exceeding $3.5 billion, according to Gibson’s biography. She is Fraport USA’s Director of Quality Assurance whose previous experience included an exemplary 17-year career at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Gibson is based in Philadelphia.
The aviation industry leader is currently “responsible for Fraport USA’s retail and concession operational audits and contract compliance, as well as process development, improvement, and resource management,” according to her LinkedIn profile. Additional duties include handling subtenant compliance, program development and management, and contract management for the distribution center.
“The specialty area that I work with is the actual diversity component in all of our airports,” Gibson also said.
According to Fraport USA’s website, the company is also regarded as a “leading airport-concessions developer in North America.” In the Fraport USA model, or the developer model, the airport is classified as the prime landlord. Fraport USA is classified as the landlord of the tenant. Concession operators are subtenants.
“Even understanding the developer model and how that works, we don’t operate any concessions. We go out and look for concession operators to actually operate food, beverage, retail, news-gifts services, and other general services that are used by the traveling public,” Gibson said.
Baltimore is one of the biggest markets Fraport USA handles in six states. Airport locations where Fraport USA leases space at the aviation hubs include: Baltimore (BWI); Cleveland (CLE); Nashville (BNA); New Jersey (EWR); New York (JFK); and Pittsburgh (PIT). Gibson travels to locations to support all of them.
“Fraport USA needs to ensure that what we are providing to the traveling public and the airport is of value,” Gibson said. “It is very important that we have the opportunity to put our best foot forward and make sure that the concessions that we place in our airport program meets the public’s traveling needs. Coordination with the airport’s desires is also important, as well as the presence of local and regional flavor of products and locations.”
Gibson explained that people often do not realize how much economic impact is involved at airports. Possibilities exist for entrepreneurs, in addition to jobs for people who work there.
“That is something that most people may not realize about the opportunities that airport customers offer or subtenants having opportunities to reach people because of travel airports have to be self-sustaining in revenue generation,” Gibson said.
Early in the pandemic, air-travel was disrupted, but travel demand is growing again as the world reopens. Gibson reminded that most flight require travelers to arrive two hours early. Passengers with a bit of time on their hands may opt to grab a bite to eat, grab souvenirs, or shop for high-end jewelry or clothes. Launch Pad BWI is an “internship” concession program which links local, small operators who are minority or woman owned, with an opportunity to reach airport travelers.
In 2017, AviationPros.com reported that Launch Pad BWI program participants “received custom retail merchandising units, along with additional training, sales and marketing support to start up their small businesses at the airport.”
Launch Pad is only available at BWI. There are small business programs at other locations. Gibson explained that Launch Pad operators sell items from small carts or kiosks. The rigorous selection process begins with applying. It advances to a virtual interview process, then includes an in-person interview process.
“Of course spaces are limited, so it can be actually a little competitive,” Gibson said. “Sometimes, with the selection process you may not be selected for round one, or the first time, but we would like you to continue to stay in contact with us. You may potentially be asked to join the program at a later time.”
Information is kept on file.
Gibson added that potential Launch Pad participants should present a concept that Fraport USA believes would fit well for the traveler. Selling items in an aviation environment requires entrepreneurs to have the flexibility to serve travelers who may need speedy service before their flight leaves. She also added that Launch Pad BWI participants must have the ability to adjust to different kinds of passengers is needed. Service or products also must appeal to different types of people since airports are also international.