APEX in Profile: Fran Philips


Image: Gogo

Fran Philips
Senior Vice-President of Airline Affairs

Fran leads the negotiations of airline agreements and ensures Gogo’s compliance with its contractual obligations. She has also worked in product development and marketing at American Airlines, Sony Trans Com and Connexion by Boeing. She holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.

Fast Facts:
Location: DFW
Now watching: This Is Us
Years in the industry: 30
Favorite social network: Facebook
The future of flight will be: Data-driven

Did you choose the airline industry or did it choose you?
I chose it; I had the option out of business school to work at an airline or a large telecommunications company. I chose the airline. Now I’m working with a lot of telecom experts bringing connectivity to airlines.

If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you love to be doing?
I would be a family counselor. People often come to me with their problems, because they know I’ll listen and care. The good news is that my listening skills and the ability to see two sides to every issue or story have served me well in my chosen career.

What’s something that never ceases to amaze you in the industry?
I’m actually amazed that airlines operate as well as they do. They have to manage people and assets all over the world, in the air and on the ground, while dealing with weather anomalies, geopolitical issues, passenger behavioral problems, et cetera. Most businesses firmly planted in one place on the ground couldn’t adapt to all that on a daily basis. There is always room for improvement, but also room for patience and understanding.

“As a woman, you probably start with a deficit of respect and you have to earn it, whereas most men walk in with it,” – Fran Philips

If you could sit next to anyone on a plane, who would it be?
Ellen DeGeneres. I’d be so entertained, and everyone on the aircraft would probably deplane with a gift card and a smile.

What’s it like working in a male-dominated industry?
At this stage in my career I’m not daunted by it. But as a woman, you can be underestimated and discounted, especially by people you are meeting for the first time. Eventually I let my industry knowledge and my approach to my work and to others speak for itself. As a woman in that situation, you probably start with a deficit of respect and you have to earn it, whereas most of the men walk in with it, and it is theirs to hold on to or to lose.

What could the aviation industry do better to encourage more women to join the field?
Opportunities are lacking at the highest levels, even though it has been demonstrated that gender-balanced leadership teams drive stronger company performance. The industry needs to prioritize the hiring of female executives and consider promoting current female employees to executive-level positions even if they don’t “walk and talk” like the rest of their male counterpart executives.

Who is your female role model?
My mother. She immigrated to the United States from Sweden and managed to raise three children and have a successful nursing career. Even though nursing certainly wasn’t male-dominated, she did have to overcome a language barrier and some anti-immigrant sentiment. She managed all of this and was as loving and caring a mom and a nurse as anyone can imagine.

“APEX in Profile: Fran Philips” was originally published in the 8.3 June/July issue of APEX Experience magazine.