Marion Charlton CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GOLD COAST AIRPORT
Marion has more than 30 years’ experience in the aviation industry, both domestically and abroad, and manages the overall operation of Gold Coast Airport. Marion worked at both Atlanta and Sydney airports during the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and was in Glasgow during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She has also worked with the Irish Airport Authority. Marion is a member of the Study Gold Coast board, and is also on the advisory board for Southern Cross University Business School and the board of trustees for the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Foundation.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Dublin and grew up in a large, funny, tight Irish family. I’ve always been fascinated by the aviation industry, and my first real job was working with the retail and commercial team at Dublin Airport. In 1991, I came to Australia and took a role at Sydney Airport. I had an amazing time there, which given its size and complexity is like a mini city. One of my more challenging roles in Sydney was head of Passenger Facilitation, which essentially oversaw terminal operations. It was a hectic, exciting, relentless job, and I loved every minute of it. I spent time in Atlanta in 1996 to better prepare Sydney Airport for the Olympic Games in 2000, and this was a brilliant insight into helping us prepare for the Commonwealth Games here at Gold Coast Airport.
What attracted you to the Gold Coast Airport?
Because I’m originally from overseas, as long as I have my family with me, I can live anywhere. In 2002, my husband’s parents decided to move to the Gold Coast from Sydney. Given we had two small children at the time, we decided that being close to grandparents was important to us as a family and we made the move too. It has been a great life choice for us. Our boys had wonderful schooling here and can stay for university if they choose, with great options. Gold Coast Airport is my passion and being part of the development here is something I feel privileged to be part of. There is nowhere I would rather be.
What are the greatest challenges that the airport faces?
Currently, our greatest challenge is managing strong passenger numbers in a terminal that’s operating at capacity. Work is now underway on the redevelopment of Gold Coast Airport, which will transform the gateway to the Gold Coast and northern NSW and improve the experience of our passengers. The $200 million southern terminal expansion will double the footprint of the existing facility, delivering four aerobridges. Importantly, the project will address current capacity issues while paving the way for future passenger growth. Currently, about 6.5 million passengers pass through Gold Coast Airport each year, with that figure expected to more than double by 2037.
Your thoughts on the future of the Gold Coast, and tourism as part of that future?
The Gold Coast has many strings to its bow — including education, health, culture — but tourism is always going to be central for this city. We just have so much to offer from a tourism perspective in this beautiful, fresh, safe city of ours. We really have something for everyone. We can’t rest on our laurels though. There are many destinations that are working hard to steal our market, and we need to constantly invigorate and remain relevant. Providing a warm, easy experience will become increasingly important, not just for Gold Coast Airport but for tourism generally. People will always remember how you made them feel. We recently launched a program at the airport for passengers with hidden disabilities — a wonderful initiative that has already made a difference to our customers. As a city, we just need to work hard for our visitors every day.
What do you enjoy most about living on the Gold Coast?
Goodness, where to start. I love the opportunities that the Gold Coast has presented to us as a family. We have the best friends, home, work, and lifestyle all wrapped up in a beautiful landscape. There is an energy here that is palpable. You get a sense that things are about to go to the next level.
How important do you see the light rail being extended through to Gold Coast Airport?
Crucial. Just under 70 per cent of our passengers are visitors to the region. We are a tourist city and we need to make it convenient for our guests. Light rail does that. Additionally, we are a long, linear city with different offerings along the coast. Providing the opportunity for visitors to stay in one area and seamlessly sample other areas would be massively attractive. With the expected growth of passengers at the airport, the roads will struggle to cope without the light rail. This needs to be the city’s top priority infrastructure project.
Your favourite restaurant?
Kiyomi at The Star. Simply fabulous food and service!