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Homepage / Air Transport Management alumni stories: SangHo (Henry) Han, Strategic Planning Manager in South Korea

Air Transport Management alumni stories: SangHo (Henry) Han, Strategic Planning Manager in South Korea


SangHo (Henry) Han is a strategic planning manager at Air Premia in South Korea. He graduated from Cranfield University with an MSc in Air Transport Management in 2018. Here, Henry talks about his passion for airline management, why he chose Cranfield, and his path to working for South Korean start-up airline Air Premia.

What sparked your interest in the air transport industry?

While I was studying as an undergraduate, I had a chance to attend a lecture called ‘Airline Management’. I found the commercial aviation industry very interesting, as I learned about various business models, decades-long bankruptcy and merger history, and the effort to achieve cost-competitiveness for long-term sustainability. Yet, among others, the most appealing point was the pricing and revenue management, which airlines use to attempt to maximise the yield on each flight. I still firmly believe it is the most precious commercial function this industry has. With its extremely dynamic nature and joint effort between different functional teams, this industry always interests me and continues to spark my never-ending passion.

Why did you choose Cranfield?

To any person asking this question, I always say the number one reason was because of Professor Keith Mason, and the second reason was its industry-wide reputation. All the papers and magazines I read defined the airline business models like Southwest, JetBlue, easyJet and Ryanair only in a qualitative setting, so they have been simply called “low-cost carriers” due to some of their identical physical features. I was curious to measure their businesses in a quantitative way. Airlines’ variable and fixed costs affect their financial statements differently and are determined by their unique products like operating aircraft types, route portfolio (which airport they are flying to, average flight utilisation hours), services, etc. In the meantime, a paper published by Prof. Keith Mason instantly caught my eye. In the paper, he developed a model called “POA” (a product and organisation architecture) to examine and compare low-cost carriers through different benchmark metrics. I wanted to learn about and write a thesis on Asian carriers by applying his POA.

How did you find the course? What were the highlights?

It was simply one of the greatest times in my life. I very much enjoyed networking and studying with course mates from a different industry background. I could also learn about lessors, banks, and MROs that are closely related to the airline business. We still keep in touch and support each other online or via WhatsApp. As an airline employee, the best part is when I come across someone else who studied at Cranfield – there are always good vibes and smiles.

My highlight was making a marketing promotion campaign and video for a small Argentinian airline, which was growing. We were a group of six people, and we worked well as a team and were very supportive of each other, so we were able to deliver an impressive presentation. It is a good nostalgic memory we still talk about.

What has your career path been since graduating?

I have been engaged with the aviation industry throughout my career. I began working at a business operation consulting firm and delivered a project at Incheon International Airport on aircraft de-icing. It was very interesting and something that is hard to experience even if you are in the aviation industry for decades. The reason I worked for a consultancy firm instead of an airline was that I didn’t pass the final interviews.

Finally, a small new start-up regional airline hired me for a sales and revenue management position. I enjoyed time there maximising the revenue of 72-seater turbo-prop aircraft. Having fare competition with other airlines on the world’s busiest route, GMP-CJU, was a great joy. In the meantime, I had a chance to work with the corporate strategy and finance team for route economic analysis. It started to make me think about where I wanted to focus, and which new skills and knowledge to develop.

Fortunately, I am now with Air Premia, which offers the widest economy seat pitch to the passenger with state-of-the-art aircraft, 787-9 Dreamliners. This year, we are expanding our 787-9 fleet to five and preparing to fly to new destinations from Incheon, including New York, Paris, and Frankfurt.

Can you tell us more about your role as Strategic Planning Manager at Air Premia?

In the strategic planning team, there are three main roles that I engage with: financial forecasting, profit and loss analysis, and aircraft leasing. Financial modelling is vital for any business to forecast its potential financial performance.

When the monthly passenger and cargo revenue and operating performance target is set, I predict P&L and cash flows by utilising a corporate financial model through Excel. By doing monthly basis managerial accounting, I also deliver actual performances to executives. Analysing gaps between predicted P&L and actual performance is required to increase the accuracy of the financial model, as well as to capture any potential losses in the future.

It requires in-depth analysis such as revenue, variable, and fixed costs on each route. It is hard work, but it is always very interesting to find the reason behind the numbers. For aircraft leasing, I analyse commercial terms and measure the financial impact by putting the rates.

What does a typical week look like for you?

As the business is a start-up, there is a lot to do at this stage, and currently, I usually stay until 8pm or 9pm most evenings. Most of my colleagues love Air Premia very much so they enjoy it even when extra hours are essential. I feel it is a commercial version of Cranfield because many aviation lovers are dedicating their time with a full heart. Therefore, during the weekdays, I try to stay focused on my role and spend leisure time during the weekends. I think things will be settled once we acquire more fleets and increase frequency.

What would you say to someone who wants to work in the air transport industry?

The air transport industry, especially the airline industry, is very dynamic and fun because we are always thinking about how to improve our end-user, passenger experience, which is very closely related to extra revenue growth and royalty opportunity in the future. Thus, every role is important and essential to generate a good impression because every second of the passenger’s end-to-end journey counts. It is always impressive to watch the ongoing business of an airline. Don’t be despondent even if it is hard to join the airline family today but stick with a role that is related to the industry. This will eventually guide you to taking a part in the airline with stronger momentum for career growth.

What do you think the future holds for the aviation industry?

Once the on-going geopolitical issues are solved, I assume intercontinental air travel will grow even stronger than 2019 levels. Travelling is an essential part of business and personal life. Though there are many businesses now allowing their employees to work from home, in my experience people are still very keen to meet in-person. Therefore, I think, the industry will keep expanding.

SangHo (Henry) Han

Written By: Antonia Molloy

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