Carving a niche in aviation

Meet 4 young Kashmiris who’ve made career in the airline industry
Carving a niche in aviation
Representational ImageSource: Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Sartaj Ahmad

Station Manager, Srinagar

Spice Jet

When back in 1997, Sartaj Ahmad Mantoo started his career with Jet Airways, he was unsure of how his career graph in the aviation sector would shape up. At present, working as a Station Manager for airliner SpiceJet , Mantoo says being an airline executive at the Srinagar International Airport for more than two decades has been full of challenges yet a satisfying experience. “ For most of my career, I have worked at the Srinagar Airport but done a couple of short stints at Delhi and Lucknow. Working back home in Srinagar has been a mixed bag but at the end of the day a great learning” says Mantoo. He says being at the forefront of the ground operations of an airline is not an easy task as expectations from passengers are quite high. “I received hands-on training from Jet Airways when I joined this airline as a youngster. I had dreams of making it big in the aviation sector. One basic thing I learnt on day one of my career which continues to remain with me is that the customer is king. We have to meet the expectations of the passengers” says Mantoo. Born and brought up in Srinagar, Mantoo says the biggest highlight of his career was when he along with other members of Jet Airways ensured that airline operations did not get affected during the Kargil war in 1999. “That was the time when we as a team received a certificate of recognition from the airline for the hard work we had put in so that people could travel to the Valley and back from here” says Mantoo. Having worked in challenging times, Mantoo says the pandemic has hit the aviation industry quite badly. “ The industry is going through a tough time but hopefully like always this sector will bounce back” says Mantoo.

Mantoo says tourism and aviation have a strong connection and there is a great opportunity to develop both in terms of infrastructure. “Airport is the face of any city and it is important that the airport has good infrastructure and facilities for flyers” says Mantoo.

Irfan Shawl

Station Manager, Srinagar


Irfan Shawl joined the aviation industry in 2005 in SpiceJet and later worked with GoAir as well.

Shawl says the airport operations such as ensuring boarding passes are issued smoothly, timely departure of flights and luggage handling takes place properly are the major demands of the profile. Shawl says for an airport manager there is nothing more satisfying than watching the passengers travel happily. “The smile on the faces of flyers is the most important thing in this sector. There is nothing more satisfying than this” says Shawl.

He says a lot more needs to be done at the airport to make it more passenger-friendly. “There is a lot of scope to still develop the airport and ensure world-class amenities are offered to the passengers. This will not just make their journey comfortable but become a value addition to our city” says Shawl.

He says aviation is a vast field and is not just limited to the airport operations. “From the aircraft maintenance wing, cabin crew to customer care, there are so many segments in the airline industry where youngsters can make a career. Unfortunately the concept about careers in this part of the world has remained restricted to medicine and engineering. There is still a lack of awareness on how much the aviation industry can offer. We need more centres of learning which can guide and train youngsters to become part of the aviation sector” says Shawl.

Shawl says there needs to be a bridge between the industry and academia which in the long run will benefit the aspirants who intend to make a career in the aviation sector. “ Training is an important part of learning and development. This industry is an evolving one and one has to remain updated with the new trends of the trade” says Shawl. He says a pleasing personality and good overall skills is also important to be successful in the aviation sector. “ Personality development comes itself with experience. One just needs the drive to work hard” says Shawl.

Sheikh Fazal

Station Manager, Srinagar


More than two decades ago, Sheikh Fazal began his career in the aviation sector in Jet Airways at Srinagar. Now the Station Manager for AirAsia at the Srinagar International Airport, Fazal says the biggest take-away of his career has been that punctuality is the key factor which either makes or breaks a person in the aviation sector.

“I have worked with three airlines during my career including Kingfisher. The biggest learning for me is that this industry requires a lot of dedication. One has to be active and punctual to ensure that passenger handling and airline operations happen smoothly” says Fazal. He says since there is a lot of public dealing at the airport, the job of an airline manager comes with a lot of accountability and responsibility. Fazal’s message for youngsters who are keen to make a career in the aviation sector is that they should look beyond becoming pilots.

“There are so many departments such as sales, marketing etc which offer good opportunities” says Fazal.

He says dedication is a major requirement to be successful in the aviation sector whether you are part of the cabin crew or handling airport operations, “as the job is thrilling”. “There are different types of people travelling in an aircraft and this provides an opportunity to interact with them. Sometimes we have ailing people travelling and we need to ensure that their journey is comfortable. The expertise to handle children , pilgrims etc at the airport is also quite a task” says Fazal. This senior airline manager says he would advise youngsters to consider careers in aviation but ensure that they get well trained. “This sector is full of thrill but challenges are many. One of my major achievements was when we won the best airline award from the Ministry of Tourism J&K for Kingfisher airline. I was the airline manager back then” says Fazal. He says fluctuating clientele is a major concern for airlines amid an unwarranted surge in cases but signs off saying everyone expects the turbulent times to be over soon.

Aejaz Bashir

Station Manager, Srinagar


It was December 2005 when Aejaz Bashir Wani joined the airline industry. He was a graduate then and started his career with Air Deccan. He worked with SpiceJet in 2008 and later went on to join IndiGo as a young executive in 2010. While Wani has mostly worked at the Srinagar Airport, he has performed short stints with Air Kathmandu and in Chennai as well. Wani says grit and determination are important to survive in the aviation sector. He recollects the snowy day in January earlier this year, when he had to walk nine kilometres from his residence at Kralpora to the Srinagar Airport to ensure that daily operations don’t get hampered.

“By the end of the day I had blisters in my feet but it was all for a good cause” says Wani. He says the aviation sector is an evolving one and foray of various new airline companies in the market has the potential to offer big opportunities for youngsters. “Now a days we have many Kashmiri youth working in cabin crews and as pilots. It is quite heartening to see their career growth” said Wani. However, he says a person should be flexible to move out of the Valley and be based even abroad if he or she wants to make it big in this sector. “One cannot afford a laid back attitude in this sector. You have to be active. There are times when we cannot take an off day even on a festival as we have to ensure that airline operations go as per schedule. This industry needs a lot of individual effort and team work” says Wani.

Wani says the synergy between the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which handles the terminal, airliners and other stakeholders who are responsible for different flight related operations is important. “An Airport is a melting pot of cultures and different kinds of people work here. It is a place where we all work like one unit and a family. The coordination between all stakeholders is important” says Wani.

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