The Life Of An Airline CEO – airBaltic’s Martin Gauss

Simple Flying was recently fortunate enough to catch up with airBaltic’s CEO, Martin Gauss. While we talked a lot about airBaltic and aviation, we also touched on what his life was like as an airline CEO.

airBaltic, low fares, Lufthansa
Simple Flying sat down with airBaltic’s CEO. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

A CEO is an incredibly important person within the airline. Ultimately, they are the one in charge of ensuring the airline runs smoothly. Indeed, in the case of Mr Gauss, he has been in airline management for around 27 years. In fact, he started his management career as the managing director of Deutsche BA in 1992.

“I didn’t know that I would be a CEO”

Mr. Gauss’ journey through the aviation industry started when he was a pilot. Through his role as a pilot, he was able to start a managerial career. He tells me, my work was seen as something that somebody trusted me when I was in my early 30s, that I could also take over the leading role of an airline. And I did it and I did well.”

He was drawn to airBaltic via a headhunter who asked: Would you be interested in doing a turnaround story in Northern Europe?” He tells me that Boeing originally put the two in touch, and he was offered a year’s contract. However, since things have been going so well, this has been extended year on year.

AirBaltic CEO Martin Gauss
Martin Gauss is airBaltic’s CEO. Photo: Simple Flying

No typical day

Mr. Gauss tells me that there is no typical day for him in his role. On the day we met he was scheduled for back to back meetings with members of the press. However, he can be required to travel for various meetings.

He then mentions that there are always top management meetings which occur daily. He tells me, “we have at a regular interval and try to have them always on the same day, same time”. However, having no typical day means that he doesn’t always work from 9-5. In fact, sometimes he needs to work into the evening.

Work-life balance

Mr. Gauss tells me that there is no one perfect work-life balance, it varies from person to person. He jokes, I’m stressed if I have too much free time and cannot work, because I love my job.” He tells me that he is very happy with his work-life balance, although he understands that it may not be for everybody.

airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss
Mr. Gauss has no typical work day. Photo: Kentaro Lemoto / Wikimedia Commons

Advice for future CEOs

When asked if he had any advice for future aspiring airline CEOs, Mr. Gauss told me that it is important to be an expert in your field. He also mentions the importance of self-motivation as nobody tells you what you need to be doing at the top of the chain.

His closing advice for anybody wishing to become an airline CEO is to love what you do. He sums up his advice by saying I think the positive attitude, finishing things and motivating yourself, I would give as advice.”