Air Canada Visit

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Robert Milton, former President and CEO of Air Canada, recently paid a visit to Dr. Laurie Garrow's aviation research group. A lifelong aviation enthusiast, Mr. Milton graduated from Georgia Tech in 1983 with a degree in Industrial Management. He worked for nearly a decade in several areas of the airline industry, before finding his way to Air Canada in 1992. The insightful discussions of that day ultimately resulted in Mr. Milton inviting Dr. Garrow and her students to Montreal to spend a day at Air Canada's headquarters.

The group, consisting of undergraduate student Susan Hotle, doctoral students Donald Katz, Brittany Luken, Stacey Mumbower, Tom Wall, and former post-doctoral researcher Misuk Lee made the trip up to Quebec. Fittingly, all air travel was done on the fleet of Air Canada. The group prepared for the day's events by brushing up on the recent history of the company by reading Mr. Milton's autobiography Straight From the Top. "The book is an incredible description of how an airline makes decisions," mentioned Ph.D. student Donald Katz, "and cover-to-cover you the reader get to experience the trials that test the management daily."

Air Canada employees met the group at the company's head offices and the day was spent discussing various aspects of the air industry. After a welcoming in the morning by the Vice President of Network Planning and the Vice President of Revenue Management, Dr. Garrow started the day's presentations by showing Air Canada employees the research that she and her students at Georgia Tech were doing. Following questions from Air Canada staff, the rest of the day was spent hearing from employees in both the Network Planning and Revenue Management departments. The students had the chance to hear about and discuss how Air Canada is making decisions in the areas of route planning, pricing, and resource allocation, gaining an understanding of how the airline functions. Susan Hotle, who at the time was a senior in the undergraduate program, commented on how useful it was to hear about the industry's usage of the tools that until the trip were understood only within the context of the laboratory. "The presentations," she described, "showed how dependent an airline is on multiple simulation programs, its historical data, and the decisions of its competitors in order to be an efficient business."

The trip was a wonderful opportunity for the students to find out how the concepts they work with in research are put into practice at a major North Air Canada headquarters in Montreal.. Stacey Mumbower, a Ph.D. student in the program remarked afterwards, "Visiting Air Canada was an incredible experience. I've been studying air transportation for the past three years, but this is the first time that I've been able to see first-hand how the reservation and pricing systems actually work. I'm excited to continue my research in the air transportation field and feel that I now have a much better understanding of airline pricing and revenue management."

Trips such as these are a unique opportunity for the students, and help them to put in perspective the work they do in research. Tech alumni like Mr. Milton who reach back to the university and involve the current batch of Yellow Jackets in the world outside Atlanta is what truly makes the institute special.

Robert Milton currently serves as chairman, president, and CEO of ACE Aviation Holdings, Inc.