When Justin Meyer started college, he was planning on becoming an airline pilot. Advice from a slightly older friend changed the course of his career.
“I was lucky," he said. "I had a roommate ahead of me who showed me the perils of a young airline pilot’s life. He was living out of his car while flying airplanes with more patches than an old pair of jeans.”
Meyer was a student at the Florida Institute of Technology at the time, and because of his roommate’s advice he opted to switch his academic focus to airline and airport management. After graduation and a stint and the Kansas City airport, he landed at TPA earlier this year. He’s the airport’s director of air service development, and he’s loving it.
“What I’ve discovered along the way,” he said, “is that the drive I had to become a pilot was actually a desire to travel and be on the move.”
His job is to attract new airlines to TPA, and to persuade airlines who are already part of the TPA family to introduce new routes. And since no airlines are based in the Tampa Bay area, he’s constantly traveling around the country and around the world to meet with airline executives. He’s managed to land a few new domestic routes in the seven months he’s been at TPA, but the airport’s focus is on bigger prizes, including non-stop service to Germany, Mexico City, Central and South America. Domestically, San Francisco and Seattle are targets.
Before he can even start courting an airline, Meyer has a lot of homework to do. He has to know what’s going on with the airline, understand travel trends and the changing tastes of travelers, and gain insight through passenger, fare and revenue analysis. He might have to provide data to show that they'll get more passengers if they fly non-stop to San Francisco instead of landing somewhere else first. Or he might have to explain to airline executives from Colombia how Tampa’s business core is a differentiator from Orlando. And he has to make sure that any new routes he proposes make money for the airline.
“Analytics drives decisions,” he said. “If an airline starts a new route and it’s profitable, that builds up my credibility for the next airline I meet with. If a new route doesn’t perform, it makes new route cases much more difficult.”
Meyer graduated from FIT in 1999, and spent several years working for airlines before he went to work for the Kansas City airport. He enjoyed his years there – it’s his wife Jill’s hometown – but he said he’s much happier at TPA and in Tampa.
“I love the diversity here,” he said. “In Kansas City, everybody on my block looked just like me. Now I have families from all sorts of different backgrounds just on my cul-de-sac.”
When he’s not traveling, the Meyers and their two sons (Jackson is 7 and Cameron is 4, and they both love airports and airplanes) make the most of living in Tampa.
“We love being tourists in our own city,” Meyer said. “We enjoy exploring the beaches and visiting Busch Gardens, MOSI and the Florida Aquarium. We’re having a great time here.”