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Avalon Airport CEO search could take 12 months

written by Hannah Dowling | April 4, 2022

Grounded Jetstar planes parked at Avalon. (@avalonairport)

The search for the next CEO of Avalon Airport could take up to a year, after the departure of Justin Giddings who officially left his position this week.

Australian Aviation reported in February that Giddings had been appointed as the new CEO of AMDA Foundation, the organiser of the iconic Avalon Airshow, and will therefore be stepping down from the top role at Avalon Airport after 14 years.

Since taking on the role in 2008, Giddings has overseen the airport’s expansion into an international airport and transformed it into a new hub for Jetstar’s domestic operations in Melbourne.

Avalon’s acting chief executive David Crawford told the Geelong Advertiser that while the search for Gidding’s replacement is underway, the process could take up to a year.

Crawford said he, along with Avalon’s executive chairman David Fox, is determined to find the right person for the role and flagged that they might be seeking out a candidate with property experience.

It comes as the airport continues to await the restart of international flights, with two carriers, AirAsia and Citilink, previously operating overseas routes from Avalon.

Meanwhile, Avalon has announced a new charter route connecting the airport directly with Kangaroo Island in South Australia, beginning 3 June.

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“It’s a fantastic time for us – it’s super exciting,” Crawford said. “I am so chuffed to be able to be the acting CEO.

“This is really our time, Avalon’s time, to shine (as) there is so much happening.”

Crawford said while plans to reinstate international flights from the airport this month have now been dashed, “it shouldn’t be long” until Avalon welcomes international travellers, as border restrictions around the world continue to ease.

Meanwhile, Crawford noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, while difficult, has presented new opportunities to “level the playing field” for airlines, which are already paying off for Avalon, likely referencing start-up carrier Bonza which is set to operate three flights per week between Avalon and the Sunshine Coast.

Bonza first announced its plans to launch in October 2021 with a plan to fly “point to point” leisure routes not serviced by Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin and Rex.

Meanwhile, Giddings has officially started in his role at AMDA Foundation, taking over from longstanding AMDA chief executive Ian Honnery who held the title for 46 years, since the foundation’s inception.

After nearly five decades as the foundation’s CEO, overseeing the Avalon Airshow, as well as the Indo Pacific International Maritime Exposition and the RotorTech Helicopter convention, Honnery welcomed Giddings as his successor.

“At the age of 75, it is time for me to hand over to a new generation of leadership, who will build on and advance the organisation’s achievements and success,” Honnery said.

“Justin is well known for his success in developing Avalon Airport into Melbourne’s second international airport, but also for his dedication in building industry through regional economic development and vocational education.”

Giddings himself said he was “looking forward to leading the AMDA organisation and building on its achievements under the stewardship of Ian Honnery”.

“I have always strongly supported AMDA Foundation’s mission of stimulating Australian industry promotion and engagement through industry-focused events and in fostering public awareness of industry and of opportunities in careers and skills,” Giddings said.

“I have been fortunate to have worked alongside Ian for many years and have enormous admiration and respect for what he has achieved. He leads a wonderful organisation, and I am humbled to continue his service to the industry.

“I was an aircraft maintenance engineer before moving into airport management, securing airline services and industry operations through both national and international business development. Aviation, technology and industry are in my blood, and with experience from the hangar floor to the management office, I have a passion for promoting vocational skills and careers.”

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