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GUESTS & SPEAKERS

Explore our growing list of industry leaders and movers & shakers who have shared their thoughts, ideas and more with the AX community.
Lewis Allen

Lewis Allen

Senior Director | Portland Design Associates (UK)

Session: Best Practices From the Experts, Part 2

With a background in branding and design, Lewis has over 30 years of design consultancy experience in roles including company director, brand strategist, creative director and project designer.

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With a background in branding and design, Lewis has over 30 years of design consultancy experience in roles including company director, brand strategist, creative director and project designer.

Lewis leads design projects to define and translate a clear vision for the customer experience into shopping journeys that span channels and touchpoints. With a future-ready perspective for commercial activations Lewis is a strong champion of experiences crafted for emerging and new consumer behaviours.

Lewis has worked extensively in the travel and domestic retail sectors for a wide range of categories including confectionery, fashion, grocery, multi-category, tobacco, liquor, beauty and financial retail as well as food & beverage concepts from fast-casual to fine dining.

By combining a deep consumer insight with his design immersion across many sectors Lewis loves energising the creative process, exploring new thinking and unlocking the full potential of the project brief.

Carlos Bernal

Carlos Bernal

CEO | Areas USA

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 1: F&B

Carlos Bernal is a talented and seasoned executive with over 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry. He brings a wealth of expertise in managing high-growth companies, corporate repositioning and on-the-ground operations within multiple business venues encompassing a broad range of restaurant concepts for private and publicly held companies.

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Carlos Bernal is a talented and seasoned executive with over 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry. He brings a wealth of expertise in managing high-growth companies, corporate repositioning and on-the-ground operations within multiple business venues encompassing a broad range of restaurant concepts for private and publicly held companies.

Currently, Carlos is the CEO for Areas USA which he joined in 2020. He has been responsible for spearheading several initiatives within the organization to support the overall broad business strategy with uncompromising integrity and attention to excellence.

Regarded as a visionary and strategic thinker, Bernal who recognizes the potential of new ideas has a successful track record of developing diverse high-performance teams. Additional specialties include start-up experience, real estate, lease and contract negotiations, new business development, franchising, restaurant operations, and union relations/negotiations. These skill sets have been key in leading the strategic plan in Areas USA ensuring execution of the company’s growth strategies and operational excellence.

Prior to joining Areas USA in 2020, Bernal previously was president of Delaware North Sportservice. He has also held senior leadership positions at Westfield, HMSHost and Wagamama. In addition to his executive career, Carlos serves on the board of the Airport Restaurant and Retail Association (ARRA).

Chellie Cameron

Chellie Cameron

CEO | Philadelphia International Airport

Session: Airport Director Outlook

Rochelle (“Chellie”) L. Cameron is the Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia International Airport and the Northeast Philadelphia Airport, a large hub airport system which served more than 33 million passengers in 2019. 

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“Rochelle (“Chellie”) L. Cameron is the Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia International Airport and the Northeast Philadelphia Airport, a large hub airport system which served more than 33 million passengers in 2019. She oversees the planning, development and administration of all activities for the City’s Division of Aviation. Cameron has made enhancing the customer experience, improving current airport facilities and positioning the airport for the future her top priorities.

Cameron has been a member of the Airport’s leadership team since 2011. Previously, she spent 13 years with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and served for seven years as an active duty officer in the United States Air Force and one year as an Air Force civilian employee.

Cameron holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Auburn University at Montgomery. She is a certified public accountant in the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia and a Certified Member of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE).

Cameron serves on numerous international, national and local boards and advisory groups. Her leadership roles in the airport industry and local community reflect her passion for the role airports play in connecting communities with the world, growing local economies, and developing diverse and inclusive employee teams. “

Robert Firpo Cappiello

Robert Firpo Cappiello

Editor-in-Chief | Hospitality Technology Magazine

Session: Best Practices From the Experts, Part 2

Robert Firpo Cappiello is Editor-in-Chief of Hospitality Technology. Robert is a multi platform media professional with experience in print, digital, television, and live events. Prior to joining Hospitality Technology,

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Robert Firpo Cappiello is Editor-in-Chief of Hospitality Technology. Robert is a multi platform media professional with experience in print, digital, television, and live events. Prior to joining Hospitality Technology, Robert was the long-time editor-in-chief at Lonely Planet’s Budget Travel and has held senior editorial positions at Food & Wine, Men’s Journal, Natural Health, and Remedy Health Media.
David Charles

David Charles

President and COO | Marshall Retail Group

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 2: Retail

David Charles serves as president and chief operating officer of Marshall Retail Group. He is a strategic consumer and marketing-driven executive with 30+ years of experience in the airport and travel retail sector.

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David Charles serves as president and chief operating officer of Marshall Retail Group. He is a strategic consumer and marketing-driven executive with 30+ years of experience in the airport and travel retail sector. David has global experience across finance, operations, business development and general management, and his direct reports include store operations, visual merchandising, marketing, design and construction. Previously, David was at DFS Group, where he served in various roles, culminating as the regional president for the Pacific Division.
Leo Carrington

Leo Carrington

Session: Best Practices From the Experts, Part 2

Leo leads European Travel and Leisure research at Credit Suisse based in London, namely the Hotel, Catering and Concessions subsectors having previously covered Industrials. Leo has extensively covered themes such as corporate travel and return to the office themes as well as potential aviation value chain disruption in his research.

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Leo leads European Travel and Leisure research at Credit Suisse based in London, namely the Hotel, Catering and Concessions subsectors having previously covered Industrials. Leo has extensively covered themes such as corporate travel and return to the office themes as well as potential aviation value chain disruption in his research. Leo is a Chartered Accountant (ACA), and has a BSc from Imperial College London and MSc from the University of Oxford.
Justin Erbacci

Justin Erbacci

CEO | Los Angeles World Airports

Session: Airport Director Outlook

As CEO, Mr. Erbacci has oversight of Los Angeles International (LAX) and Van Nuys (VNY) general aviation airports. He leads the team responsible for transforming LAX into a world-class airport for the modern traveler and thus returning LAX to its iconic status. 

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“Mr. Justin Erbacci serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). He has been with LAWA since October 2016, and was appointed as CEO by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in June 2020. 

As CEO, Mr. Erbacci has oversight of Los Angeles International (LAX) and Van Nuys (VNY) general aviation airports. He leads the team responsible for transforming LAX into a world-class airport for the modern traveler and thus returning LAX to its iconic status. His responsibilities involve managing more than $14 billion in programs to revolutionize how guests access the airport, to modernize all of LAX’s terminals and to significantly improve operations, retail, food and beverage and the overall guest experience. He also oversees programs to bring innovation and sustainability to VNY, one of the nation’s busiest general aviation airports. Mr. Erbacci served as Interim CEO for the first six months of 2020, where he guided LAWA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the establishment of innovative safety protocols and new technologies to help keep LAWA’s airports clean and safe and its airport guests and employees healthy and secure. Mr. Erbacci also led the formulation of creative solutions to the significant fiscal pressures imposed on LAWA and its partners due to the sudden and dramatic downturn in travel. 

Mr. Erbacci previously served as LAWA’s Chief Operating Officer, and was responsible for overseeing a realigned executive organization focused on implementation and delivery of LAWA’s multibillion-dollar modernization program. Mr. Erbacci brings more than 20 years of experience in global executive leadership from inside and outside of the aviation industry. Prior to his appointment with LAWA, he served as Vice President of Customer Experience & Technology for Star Alliance, a global airline network comprised of 28 airlines serving 640 million passengers annually. Additionally, Mr. Erbacci has served as the Director of Global Product Management for Credit Suisse, as a Manager of Business Planning and Technology at United Airlines, and as a senior consultant for firms including Reese McMahon LLC, Cambridge Management Consultants, and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Prior to consulting, he practiced law as a civil rights defense litigator.  

Justin earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the Vienna School of Economics/Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, and a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola University of Chicago’s School of Law. He also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Loyola University of Chicago.  “
Chris Gwilliam

Chris Gwilliam

Vice President of Business Development | Airport Dimensions

Session: Best Practices From the Experts, Part 1

Chris Gwilliam serves as Vice President of Business Development at Airport Dimensions. He is responsible for leading and expanding all business development and client management activities. With roughly two decades of experience in the hospitality industry, he leads all growth strategy initiatives in the Americas.

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Chris Gwilliam serves as Vice President of Business Development at Airport Dimensions. He is responsible for leading and expanding all business development and client management activities. With roughly two decades of experience in the hospitality industry, he leads all growth strategy initiatives in the Americas. Chris has always worked in fast paced innovative concepts that are focused on continual guest experience improvement. His primary objectives are to continually strengthen Airport Dimensions competitive position & identify strategic partnerships that support network & revenue growth.
Blake Halseide

Blake Halseide

Senior Analyst Product Strategy | JetBlue Airways

Session: Best Practices From the Experts, Part 1

Blake Halseide works in Product Development at JetBlue, where he leads the Ground Experience team, which shapes customer-facing components of the pre- and post-flight experience. This includes oversight of JetBlue’s concessions programs at JFK T5 and LGA Marine Air Terminal.

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Blake Halseide works in Product Development at JetBlue, where he leads the Ground Experience team, which shapes customer-facing components of the pre- and post-flight experience. This includes oversight of JetBlue’s concessions programs at JFK T5 and LGA Marine Air Terminal. Blake joined JetBlue in February 2020 after working in management consulting, where he helped consumer-facing companies develop and implement strategic changes. Previously, Blake received his MBA from the University of Virginia.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

President and CEO | HMSHost

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 1: F&B

Steve Johnson is President and CEO of HMSHost, a global restaurateur and world leader in delivering innovative dining solutions in travel venues.

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Steve Johnson is President and CEO of HMSHost, a global restaurateur and world leader in delivering innovative dining solutions in travel venues.

HMSHost operates in more than 120 airports around the globe and at more than 80 travel plazas in North America. The company has annual sales of more than $3.5 billion and employs approximately 41,000 associates worldwide.

Steve joined the company in 2000 and has played a critical role in the growth and development of the core business.

During his influential career he served as Executive Vice President of Business Development where he oversaw business development, design & construction, and restaurant development teams. He has led the winning and/or extending of major airport and motorway contracts, as well as the evolution and enhancement of HMSHost’s restaurant portfolio. His vision has led to strategic global partnerships, an impressive portfolio of proprietary concepts, and the winning approach to bring travelers a balanced mix of quality dining solutions.

Prior to joining HMSHost, Steve served as Director of Westfield Concession Management Inc. helping to create their airport entry strategy. He also worked in shopping mall development and management for several Washington area regional shopping centers.

Steve was named as one of the Women’s Foodservice Forum Industry Titans for his forward-thinking leadership and commitment to prioritizing women’s advancement at HMSHost and increasing opportunities for women across the industry.  

Steve serves on boards of the National Restaurant Association and the HMSHost Foundation. When not giving back to the community, Steve spends time with his family including his wife Kelly and their two grown daughters. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Raymond Kayal, Jr.

Raymond Kayal, Jr.

President and CEO | NewsLink Management Group, LLC

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 2: Retail

Mr. Kayal is the President, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Owner of the NewsLink Group of Affiliated Entities, a Miami-based airport retail concessionaire established in 2004.

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Mr. Kayal is the President, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Owner of the NewsLink Group of Affiliated Entities, a Miami-based airport retail concessionaire established in 2004. NewsLink and its affiliates currently operate over 40 newsstand, news/gift, news/book, sundries, specialty retail and café concessions at Miami International Airport, Tampa International Airport, Boston-Logan International Airport, Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport and Nashville International Airport, employing over 400 people.

For the six years prior to establishing NewsLink, Mr. Kayal was a Vice President of Sirgany Enterprises, Inc. Sirgany was Mr. Kayal’s family-owned business founded in 1959 which, together with affiliated entities, operated specialty retail shops, newsstands and food & beverage concessions at Miami International Airport and Orlando International Airport for over 44 years from 1959 until closing its operations in 2004.

Prior to joining Sirgany, Mr. Kayal was an attorney in the Miami office of the international law firm of White & Case LLP. At White & Case, Mr. Kayal’s practice included the representation of a wide range of clients, including those in the retail and real estate development businesses, on a wide range of matters, including those regarding general corporate issues and multimillion-dollar business transactions.

Prior to attending law school, Mr. Kayal was a senior project manager at Strategic Management Group, Inc., a management consulting and executive training firm located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At SMG, Mr. Kayal developed and conducted executive training seminars for over 1,000 managers in a wide variety of industries including retail and banking. Mr. Kayal also recruited, trained, scheduled and monitored project management staff in meeting client requirements.

Jeff Livney

Jeff Livney

Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer | Servy

Session: Best Practices From the Experts, Part 1

Jeff Livney is a co-founder and the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) at Servy, which launched in 2014 as an airport digital commerce app called Grab. He oversees commercial partnerships and business development as well as product development, operations and guest experience.

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Jeff Livney is a co-founder and the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) at Servy, which launched in 2014 as an airport digital commerce app called Grab. He oversees commercial partnerships and business development as well as product development, operations and guest experience. His vision of technology as part of hospitality has led to the evolution of the company, which now is called Servy, and provides much more than simply the ability to grab food on the go at the airport. Through Jeff’s leadership, Servy has branched into all areas of hospitality and developed the omni-channel line of guest-facing digital products that they have today. Solutions include QR/NFC-based Order@, allowing guests to order and pay from their own device without an app; Servy Marketplace, combining multiple dining and retail options in one user interface; Self-Service Kiosks; and the Grab app which is now the largest omnichannel airport e-commerce platform. 

Jeff’s career started early when he founded a digital experience agency in high school which he led for ten years prior to pursuing roles in marketing and business development. His entrepreneurial drive earned him the honor of being named Texas Youth Entrepreneur of the Year during his junior year of high school. He was featured on the cover of the Houston Business Journal before his 17th birthday and was also a member of Phocuswright’s 2015 “Young Leaders Under 35” executive development program. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from The Neeley School of Business at TCU.

Lance Lyttle

Lance Lyttle

Managing Director | Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Session: Airport Director Outlook

Lance Lyttle is the Managing Director for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). Before joining Port of Seattle, Lance was COO for Houston’s three airports and Assistant General Manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 

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Lance Lyttle is the Managing Director for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). Before joining Port of Seattle, Lance was Chief Operating Officer for Houston’s three airports and Assistant General Manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. A growth-oriented executive, he has led strategic development efforts of $5B at Houston airports, and played a key role in the $6B development in Atlanta. Currently, he leads a multibillion dollar terminal revitalization program including an international arrivals facility, renovating the north and south satellites, and upgrading the baggage handling system. In 2017, he was elected to the Board of Directors of Airports Council International. Lance holds a B.Sc. in Physics and Computer Science and a M.Sc. in Management Information Systems. 
Melissa Montes

Melissa Montes

Publisher | Airport Experience News

Session: Welcome Address

Melissa K. Montes is Publisher of Airport Experience News. She joined Airport Experience News in 2013 as Director of Business Development & Marketing, became Portfolio Director in 2019 and was named Publisher the following year.

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Melissa K. Montes is Publisher of Airport Experience News. She joined Airport Experience News in 2013 as Director of Business Development & Marketing, became Portfolio Director in 2019 and was named Publisher the following year. Montes is responsible the overall strategic vision of Airport Experience News, the Airport Experience Conference and other company-hosted events. She leads the AX team in hosting an unparalleled networking and education opportunity for airport and concessions executives, supported by the AX News magazine and other media. She is also host of the informative AXiNsights webinar series. Prior to joining AXN, Montes was Director of Account Services at Ryan William’s Agency and also held other advertising positions. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Florida Atlantic University.
Jamie Obletz

Jamie Obletz

President | Travel, Delaware North 

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 1: F&B

Jamie Obletz was named president of Delaware North’s travel division in January 2020, a role based at the company’s global headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y.

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Jamie Obletz was named president of Delaware North’s travel division in January 2020, a role based at the company’s global headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y.

Obletz is responsible for providing oversight and strategic direction for the company’s portfolio of 24 airports throughout North America.

Obletz previously served as the company’s senior vice president of corporate development, leading Delaware North’s growth and strategic investment efforts across all its subsidiaries in the travel, sports, gaming, parks and resorts, and international sectors, including the 2019 acquisition of Creative Food Group, which added more than 30 restaurants across five airports to the company’s portfolio.

Prior to joining Delaware North in August 2016, Obletz worked in New York City as an executive director in the investment banking division at J.P. Morgan. He began his career in 2003 with M&T Bank in Buffalo as a banking officer and part of its highly regarded Management Development Program.

A Buffalo native, Obletz graduated with honors and a degree in economics from Boston College. He later earned an MBA from Columbia Business School, where he studied corporate finance.

Gregg Paradies

Gregg Paradies

President and CEO | Paradies Lagardère

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 2: Retail

Gregg Paradies is president and CEO of Paradies Lagardère, a leading airport travel retailer and restaurateur in North America with more than 950 stores and restaurants in approximately 100 airports. With expertise in international, national and local brands, Paradies Lagardère works with airport, brand and supplier partners to create memorable and positive experiences for today’s travelers.

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Gregg Paradies is president and CEO of Paradies Lagardère, a leading airport travel retailer and restaurateur in North America with more than 950 stores and restaurants in approximately 100 airports. With expertise in international, national and local brands, Paradies Lagardère works with airport, brand and supplier partners to create memorable and positive experiences for today’s travelers. Gregg is responsible for the company’s overall business and ensuring Paradies Lagardère continues its strong tradition of providing exceptional customer service, superior design, and award-winning store and restaurant operations and management. 

Prior to his appointment as president and CEO in June 2004, Gregg held a number of roles within the organization. Upon earning a degree in Business Administration in Finance from the University of Texas, he entered the retail industry through the Executive Training Program at Macy’s. Shortly thereafter, he joined the family business that his father and uncle created as the manager of hotel properties. In 1991, he was elevated to regional vice president of operations and then eventually the chief operating officer in 2001. He assumed his current role in 2004.

As President and CEO, Gregg has sustained the company’s track record of 59 consecutive years of profitability since its founding in 1960. Known for its customer-service and excellent brand partnerships, Paradies Lagardère seamlessly represents top-tier retail and dining brands in airports, such as: SPANX, CNBC, Brooks Brothers, Dylan’s Candy Bar, Univision, TripAdvisor, Brighton, PGA TOUR Shops, Chick-fil-A, P.F. Chang’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Gordon Biersch and celebrity chefs Cat Cora, Michael Symon and Michael Mina.

Paradies Lagardère is continually recognized for its customer service and industry-leading quality in its store and restaurant operations and design. Gregg’s leadership has earned the organization consistent honors from the industry, highlighted by its 25-year run as the “Best Airport Retailer,” awarded annually by Airport Experience News (AXN). Other major accolades include AXN’s “Retailer with the Highest Regard for Customer Service” award, earned in 20 of the past 25 years; AXN’s “Best Brand Restaurateur” for its operation of the Chick-fil-A brand, earned most recently in 2020; multiple “Best Specialty Retail Brand Operator” awards; and several “Best News and Gift Concept” and “Best New Food and Beverage Concept” awards by Airports Council International (ACI), North America.

Gregg’s vision and commitment to philanthropy has also guided Paradies Lagardère’s participation in a wide variety of community giving and programs that support key groups, including Make-A-Wish®, No Kid Hungry® and the company’s Treat Our Troops program. The organization strives to support the communities in which its employees live and work and make a positive difference in the lives of its employees, business partners and customers.

Gregg also strongly supports travel industry associations as a member of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and Airports Council International (ACI) North America, as well as a corporate membership of the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC).

Brian Quinn

Brian Quinn

Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer| Hudson

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 2: Retail

Brian Quinn is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Hudson. In this role, he is responsible for the strategic direction and performance of more than 1,000 stores across North America.

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Brian Quinn is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Hudson. In this role, he is responsible for the strategic direction and performance of more than 1,000 stores across North America. Previously, Mr. Quinn served as Vice President of Operations from 1992 to 1996, as well as General Manager of Hudson’s LaGuardia Airport operations. Prior to joining Hudson in 1991, Mr. Quinn held positions as Regional Vice President at the Rite-Aid Corporation, Regional Vice President at Faber Coe & Gregg, and General Manager of WH Smith’s New York City operations. Mr. Quinn received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from St. John’s University.
Brian Ryks

Brian Ryks

Executive Director and CEO | Metropolitan Airports Commission

Session: Airport Director Outlook

Brian D. Ryks, A.A.E. was appointed Executive Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission in May 2016. He is responsible for the administration and management of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport and the MAC’s six reliever airports.

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Brian D. Ryks, A.A.E. was appointed Executive Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission in May 2016. He is responsible for the administration and management of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport and the MAC’s six reliever airports.

Before arriving in Minneapolis, he held a similar position as executive director and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While there, Mr. Ryks oversaw the completion of several significant projects, including an airport re-branding campaign, transition from a county- controlled airport to an airport authority, major expansion and renovation of Concourse B, and construction of a state-of-the-art storm water/aircraft deicing natural treatment system and a new general and corporate aviation arrivals terminal. He also initiated a $45 million terminal expansion and consolidated TSA passenger screening checkpoints. Ryks also led an innovative funding campaign to raise $20 million in private capital in support of the terminal expansion.

During Ryks’ tenure, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport set all-time records for passengers in 2014 and 2015 and was rated in 2015 as the number one airport in North America in its size category by the Airports Council International Airport Service Quality survey.

Prior to his time in Michigan, Ryks was the executive director at the Duluth Airport Authority, overseeing Duluth International Airport in Minnesota and Sky Harbor, a general aviation airport. During his 10 years in Duluth, Mr. Ryks oversaw completion of $135 million in airport improvements, culminating with a $77 million project to develop a new terminal.

Prior to arriving in Duluth, Mr. Ryks was employed for five years as the airport manager at the St. Cloud Regional Airport and for two years as the airport manager in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Before Aberdeen, Mr. Ryks spent six years in Denver where he was the manager of noise abatement at Stapleton and Denver International Airports. He was also the project manager for the development and installation of an Airport Noise and Operations Monitoring System at the Denver International Airport.

He began his career as a noise technician at the Metropolitan Airports Commission in 1986.

Mr. Ryks holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Cloud State University, is a licensed pilot with an instrument rating and an Accredited Airport Executive with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). He currently serves on the Airports Council International North America (ACI-NA) Board of Directors, is Chairman of the ACI Audit Committee, represents ACI-NA on it’s World Governing Board and is on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). He also holds a professional affiliation with the Great Lakes Chapter of AAAE (GL-AAAE) and is past president of GL-AAAE.

He was awarded a TSA Partnership Award in 2006, a Patriot Award in 2008 from the Employee Support of National Guard & Reserve, a 2009 Minnesota Council of Airport’s Award of Excellence for Outstanding Promotion of Aviation, a 2012 Minnesota Council of Airports Distinguished Service Award and was named the 2015 Newsmaker of the Year in Economic Development by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

Michael Svagdis

Michael Svagdis

CEO | Areas USA

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 1: F&B

With SSP America since 2014 as Chief Executive Officer, Michael Svagdis and his team are driven by an unparalleled passion for bringing cool, authentic restaurants to airports that reflect a taste of place.

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With SSP America since 2014 as Chief Executive Officer, Michael Svagdis and his team are driven by an unparalleled passion for bringing cool, authentic restaurants to airports that reflect a taste of place.

Michael’s tenure is marked by his ability to assemble a world-class executive team who collectively drove dramatic corporate growth by 300% in annual revenues. The team simultaneously developed a unique corporate culture based on a set of highly embraced principles. Called the PASSION Principles, Michael and his team trained every manager and employee by launching a continent-wide effort to unite the company around one set of ideals. The result has been a dramatic decrease in employee turnover and increased employee satisfaction.

Michael is a recognized leader in the food service industry renowned for his ability to drive corporate growth through a focus on people and building a strong culture. Michael is dedicated to culinary innovation, operational improvements, driving standardizations and aligning strategies with the overarching business goals. He has earned a reputation for his executive acumen, customer experience strategies and solutions to increase sales, while also maintaining a positive accord with labor organizations.

Before joining SSP America, Michael served as Chief Executive Officer for Eurest Dining Services, a division of Compass Group and a leader in large-scale employee dining services for major global corporations. Notable for their operational complexity on expansive campuses in multiple facilities, Eurest culinary programs include dozens of proprietary, local and national brand concepts on each campus. Michael was responsible for $1.3 billion in revenue, 16,000 associates and more than 1,400 locations.

Michael also held a range of increasingly senior positions for Morrison Healthcare, also a division of Compass Group, culminating with his appointment as President of the company. He was responsible for the company-wide operating budget in excess of $1.1 billion, with revenues of more than $850 million and a total of 48,000 associates.

Andrew Tellijohn

Andrew Tellijohn

Senior Writer | Airport Experience News

Session: Concessionaire Roundtable, Part 2: Retail

Andrew Tellijohn is a senior reporter for Airport Experience News. His experience in the airport and concessions industry spans 16 years, covering concessions, governmental affairs and diversity issues for Airport Experience News magazine and other media.

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Andrew Tellijohn is a senior reporter for Airport Experience News. His experience in the airport and concessions industry spans 16 years, covering concessions, governmental affairs and diversity issues for Airport Experience News magazine and other media. Tellijohn is also host of the popular AXiNsider podcast. In addition, Tellijohn plans and delivers a range of sessions and educational events for the annual Airport Experience Conference and other company events. He previously was a reporter for a Minneapolis-based business newspaper. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
Carol Ward

Carol Ward

Editor-in-Chief | Airport Experience News

Session: Airport Director Outlook

Carol Ward is the Editor-in-Chief of Airport Experience News. She has been writing about the airport industry for more than 20 years, chronicling the evolution of airport concessions and services and their impact on the traveler experience.

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Carol Ward is the Editor-in-Chief of Airport Experience News. She has been writing about the airport industry for more than 20 years, chronicling the evolution of airport concessions and services and their impact on the traveler experience. Ward holds overall responsibility for the editorial content produced and distributed by Airport Experience News, including the Airport Experience News magazine, video interviews, podcasts and other media. She also is responsible for planning and delivering the sessions and educational events for the annual Airport Experience Conference and other company events. Ward previously was a senior editor for a national wine and spirits trade magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.

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