Clark International Airport CEO Bi Yong Chungunco knows first-hand about the challenges facing women in leadership positions. “In the early stages of my career, I often found myself to be the only woman at the table,” Chungunco said. Despite the lack of diversity, she continued to make a name for herself by joining a year-long management program. Chungunco remarked that she was the only woman in the program, but that “things have improved over the years.”
With March being Women’s History Month, Chungunco’s experience with aviation stands out as an example of, while there is still room for improvement, just how far the industry has come in elevating talented and accomplished women to leadership positions in aviation. As the CEO of one of the busiest airports in the Indo-Pacific region, she knows what it takes to succeed despite long-standing challenges.
Reflecting on some of the most defining moments of her career, Chungunco spoke about the massive impact of the pandemic, “which manipulated travel for the first few months in unexpected ways.” Chungunco and her team had to work fast to find ways to cope with a more than 90 percent drop in travel and an ever-changing set of requirements and recommendations from health authorities. Clark International Airport, like so many others over the last two years, had to face the prospect of a long and difficult road to recovery. But Chungunco and her team are ready to welcome travelers back. “We forged ahead, despite the pandemic, and we built a new terminal that will help when travel returns with a vengeance.”
Moving forward, this means that traditional airport operations will not be sufficient for future passenger needs, according to Chungunco. With the rise of biometrics in aviation, the increasing role of cabin connectivity, and the new technologies making air travel more efficient, Chungunco is excited about a modern airport that can serve the Philippines, and the world, at the level they demand.
“We need to be able to monitor live operation, to more efficiently use our resources and facilities, and to respond quickly to flight disruptions” Chungunco said. The airport has partnered with Collins Aerospace to meet the evolving needs of the passenger.
While the technology is a promising investment in the future of the industry, innovation will come from diversifying the voices in the room. Chungunco noted that this March is an excellent time to reflect on the importance of women in aviation and to be excited for a younger generation of women to enter the industry. “I would offer some advice to women who are aspiring to have a place at the table. You are the only person who can transform your life, and achieve what you set out to do,” Chungunco said. “There are people who will say you can’t or won’t, but there are people who say you can and will. Surround yourself with those who remind you of your potential.”
You can hear more from Chungunco about her career path and her advice for women in aviation in the video below: