PHL Unsung Heroes: Airport Operation Officer Kevin Tsai

Airport Operation Officer Kevin Tsai recently received the “Unsung Heroes” award in Philadelphia International Airport’s (PHL) Employee Recognition Program. This award recognizes employees who work behind the scenes and are not typically recognized for their work. Although they do not work directly with guests, their effectiveness has a major impact on the airport and guest experience.  

KevinAs an Airport Operations Officer, Tsai coordinates operations in the A/B airport ramp tower. His job entails two significant roles at the airport, including gate control by assigning gates to airlines and river watch. He monitors tall ships in the Delaware River and coordinates with air traffic control to maintain safe airfield operations.  

Tsai has worked at PHL for six years and works the night shift from 2 p.m. - 12 a.m. four days a week, Sunday through Wednesday.  

In his recommendation of Tsai, Airport Operations Officer Supervisor Steven Belton stated, “Kevin goes above and beyond daily while preforming the duty of Riverwatch and gate control. He is proactive when helping tenants achieve their needs when it comes to gate planning, irregular operations (IROPs) or anything they need.”   

Tsai received his bachelor’s degree in Aviation Administration from Farmingdale State College. While pursuing his education in aviation, he got the opportunity to shadow an airport employee at Morristown Airport in New Jersey for one month.  

After graduating college, Tsai gained aviation work experience at Essex County Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.   

“In the ramp tower, we have front row seats to the planes taking off and landing,” said Tsai. “I get excited when I see Air Force One or when an international airbus 8380 aircraft diverts to PHL.”  

Tsai enjoys learning new things every day and is a certified member of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE).  

“I still remember when I first interviewed here,” said Tsai. “Sometimes you have to turn off autopilot and live in the present moment because life is going by so quickly.”  

Communication is key for Tsai. He effectively communicates with his colleagues, supervisor, and the airlines.   

Belton continued, “He communicates and spreads information to all parties when a situation arises while he solves or handles any non-standard situation. He routinely offers to help with extra tasks in the department or around the airport. He is an overall excellent employee and coworker.”  

Within his department, Tsai exceeds expectations and even took it upon himself to write a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Riverwatch and gate control job duties to make the process easier for his fellow coworkers.  

“My coworkers and I help each other cover shifts,” said Tsai. “We all work as a team to help each other out.”   

Tsai is passionate about the aviation industry and enjoys sharing his passion with visiting college students. His goal is to pay it forward and mentor students the way he received mentorship early on in his aviation career. Over the years he’s had the opportunity to mentor students from his alma mater and the University of North Dakota.  

“When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone in the aviation industry,” said Tsai. “I believe it’s a fascinating career and that it should be taught as early as high school. For me, it’s about attracting the next generation of aviation professionals.”   

Before starting his shift, Tsai gets a briefing from the day shift employees. “The night shift is great,” he said. “I like to help out the airlines and use the flight tracking software to problem solve and assist them in getting passengers to get to where they need to go.”  

Tsai enjoys trying different vegan and Indian restaurants in Philadelphia. At PHL, he recommends passengers try Smash Burger and Currito Burrito, two of his favorite PHL Food & Shops eateries.    

“I would like to thank Steve for nominating me for this employee recognition award,” said Tsai. He is also thankful to his mentors in college, the airport managers at Essex County Airport, the PHL airside airport operations team, and his family for supporting his career.  

The PHL Employee Recognition Program was established by the airport’s Guest Experience (GX) Department. Honorees are nominated by their peers and selected by the GX Council Steering Committee’s Employee Conduct and Recognition Committee. To nominate an employee click here. For more information about the program, click here.     


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Heather Redfern
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