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Craig Dunstan

Head of Customer & Commercial, Park to Plane

14 September 2022

Craig heads up the Park to Plane team which strives to transform the mundane to the magical. From multiple underwater cage dives with sharks, to creating items on his lathe, he shares with us his experiences and what makes him tick.

What do you love most about your job? I love the variety of my role with the airport. It keeps me excited and energised; especially the pace of change and scale of projects we tackle.

What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve worked on at Christchurch Airport? Chairing a highly skilled group of leaders within the COVID-19 Working Group was certainly a highlight. We had to make decisions at speed and interpret new health rules and guidance in what was, at times, a high level of uncertainty within the operating environment. Despite all of that, the outcomes we delivered were superior for our passengers and staff.

Have you always been in aviation? Not at all. Prior to joining the airport I’ve had a somewhat eclectic career managing food and beverage across restaurants and hotels, operations and the customer journey at IKEA, tourism development and destination marketing for the South Australian Tourism Commission, and economic and destination development in Local Government.

What has led you to this career? Like many of us, a series of doors led me here. I had a diverse resume of skills and knowledge, coupled with a passion for experience development and customer journeys, plus a desire to let my family experience a new country.

Coolest project you’ve ever worked on? Some years ago, while I was managing Experience Development for the South Australian Tourism Commission I worked with a renowned shark cage diving company, Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions, to develop a new product.

At the time they operated 4-7 day+ itineraries on board their vessel. I felt there was an untapped weekend market. So, I spent a lot of time with them (and more than my share of underwater cage dives), and they went on to win a national award for the weekend experience.

I believe Rodney still holds the Guinness World Record for the most stitches in a human body after he was (briefly) grabbed by a Great White 59 years ago. After he recovered, he went on to become a world leading shark conservationist and advocate for their protection. An inspirational man.

Favourite airport initiative? I love the fact that most of our visitors can name their favourite airport experience. I’m really passionate about the artwork of the airport that we’ve created over the past four years. Creating a sense of place while transforming the mundane to the magical is something I aspire to for all our team.

My favourite initiative is the mural at Gate 15 by Dcypher and the Oi YOU! team, telling the story of Canterbury and links the airport to the city.

Most memorable Christchurch Airport experience? In my second week, I mixed up our Aoraki and Akaroa meeting rooms. I just went in and sat down at the Board meeting. It was probably the most direct introduction they’ve had and I thought it was a very impressive attendance for an operations meeting. I politely introduced myself, thanked them for their time and high-tailed it out of there!

Tell us one thing most people wouldn’t know about you? When I was a young lad, I was a cyclist with the Australian Institute of Sport in their development program.

What are you happiest doing when you’re not working? Two things really fill my bucket. I love tinkering at home, especially turning wood on my lathe and playing with the creative side of my brain, as part of a course I am on. There’s something cool about taking an inanimate piece of wood and creating something special with it. That and spending time with my family, who are awesome at keeping me grounded and aspiring to be a better person.

Biggest life accomplishment, thus far? Tough one. I like that this asks ‘thus far’ as we are all life-long learners and should always try new things to keep life interesting and fresh.

I feel so lucky to have accomplished many things and been part of so many great projects. One was the completion of my MBA majoring in Sustainable Business, which, as a parent of young boys, took a lot of discipline and drive (and an incredibly understanding wife who would take the boys out for day trips most Sundays).

Where is your home town, and what’s its best-kept secret? I’m from Adelaide, South Australia, though these days Christchurch feels like home. Adelaide’s best kept secret is the Flinders Ranges. A superb part of South Australia for its beautiful landscapes and remoteness that allows everyone to find themselves.

Where is your favourite winter escape? A warm fire and a glass of scotch.
Oh, you mean where? As more recent ‘locals’, we keep on being tourists in this city, so we haven’t settled on our favourite place yet. Despite my well-known dislike of the cold, I fell in love with Franz Josef and the entire West Coast - such a beautiful part of the South Island. The list of amazing locations in the South Island is long.

What advice would you give someone wanting to start their career at the airport? Research and reach out to any one of the thousands of people that work at the airport. It’s easy to forget we’re a large community with specialists and generalists in almost every field across 250+ companies. It’s a big, connected ecosystem, with wonderful people always happy to impart knowledge. For anyone wanting to join the airport, ask questions and get your foot in the door to work across many roles and organisations.

And make sure you have fun. That’s the most important way to love what you do.