By RoxanneB 21 Apr 2022 8 min read

What it's like to pursue a Master of Science in Air Transport Management

Introducing Óscar

Óscar Daniel Castrillo de Manuel is an aviation student pursuing an MSc in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University. 


My path to studying an MSc in Air Transport Management

My name is Óscar Daniel Castrillo de Manuel. I come from Spain and when I was a kid I used to take flights with my father. I naturally began to feel attraction for aviation and planes and always marvelled at the take-off phase!

During my teen years, I became more interested in aerodynamics and decided to study Aerospace Engineering. I got a place at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, the one which requires the maximum mark among all Aerospace engineering schools in Spain.

I took this degree within a High Academic Performance Group, a group with English as the main tuition language and for students with outstanding capabilities. Throughout the degree, I noticed that I wanted to specialise in air transport management and airlines.

That is why I did my Final Project on Air Transport Liberalisation. My project took more than 70,000 words, is planned for publication as a book, and received an Excellent grade (90%).

I knew I wanted to do an MSc in Air Transport Management, and, after a lot of research and talking with former students and industry people, I applied for the MSc in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University.

I am currently enrolled in the course and I am extremely happy with the MSc and the Cranfield experience. I think I made the right decision and that I am in the best place on Earth to study aviation management, in my humble opinion. I am now on the way to finishing the MSc (in August) and I am on the lookout for a job to begin in September after I finish the MSc.


Studying at Cranfield University

From October to April, we have modules such as Fleet Planning, Air Law, Airline Finance, Air Transport Economics, Airline Marketing, Airline Strategic Management, Airline Forecasting and Market Analysis… etc. Group assignments, individual exercises, exams, individual assignments… Research is a key matter of this MSc.

Throughout the course, I have read hundreds of papers, articles, and book chapters about the air transport industry, especially from academic journals such as the Journal of Air Transport Management. I feel like by the end of the MSc I will be an experienced researcher with a holistic knowledge of the industry.

Individual assignments can be challenging. For Market Analysis and Forecasting, we had to set up our airline using airline simulation software. We would design the routes, the scheduling for each aircraft, salaries, hedging strategies, pricing, baggage policies… almost everything!

For Economics, we had to analyse and compare in detail two aviation domestic markets from Asia-Pacific in terms of revenue management, cost structure, market players and mergers, external shocks to the industry… It was very challenging, as these markets were obviously out of my comfort zone. For the Operations module, we were like consultants of an LCC start-up and we would advise the company on outsourcing and other matters.

In April and May, we have a Group Project consisting of setting up an airline by ourselves without any simulation help. In the end, a presentation is delivered to professors, alumni, and industry guests. From May to August we carry out the individual thesis, in which we must bring something new to the literature about the industry.

My project will be “A reassessment of airport slots allocation systems in the light of increasing environmental awareness”, as ghost flights, the environment, and slots waivers have been and will be hot topics in the industry.

Each module of my MSc is different and unique. Typically, they contain a mix of guest lectures (lecturers from the industry), lectures with Cranfield lecturers, and sometimes group assignments throughout the week with a final presentation of our work at the end of the week. Each module lasts between 1 and 2 weeks.

One of the things I appreciate from Cranfield is that you do not go through many modules or subjects at the same time, allowing you to focus on one topic. For instance, you will only do Finance for one whole week, not many different subjects at the same time. Usually, the lectures last from 9:00 to 17:00, 16:00, or 15:00 with breaks in-between, depending on the module.

On the other hand, we are provided exclusive access to a LinkedIn group where many job offers related to air transport management are posted. Within this group, a huge range of networking opportunities opens for us because my course has a long history and there are lots of former students working in the aviation industry.

It is great not only because of the offers that you are aware of but also because this allows you to talk to people working for the companies that you may be interested in. Additionally, we are allocated one tutor per student, with whom we can discuss our academic matters and how are going with the course.


Day Overview:

  • 8:00 am: I wake up and I set myself up for the day. I live at Baroness Young Hall, one of the on-campus halls at Cranfield for students
  • 9:00 am: Usually the first lecture begins here at 9:00
  • 10:30 am We have a break in which I can have a coffee or a tea and talk with my colleagues. I enjoy these opportunities to engage with my colleagues, from whom I have learned a lot! 
  • 11:00 am The second lecture lasts from 11:00 to 12:30, typically. Lectures generally last 1,5 hours, which I think is essential to digest the knowledge and teachings properly and let the brain rest enough time
  • 12:30 pm We have a 1-hour break for lunch and I usually go to have my lunch with three friends or more
  • 13:30 pm The third lecture would normally begin here
  • 15:00 pm -15:30 pm Break
  • 15:30 pm The final lecture of the day takes place. As I said before, sometimes lectures are not classic lectures but group or individual exercises, which are more likely to be in the evening rather than in the morning
  • 17:00 pm – 21:00 pm After the lectures, everyone can do whatever they wish but I normally go to the library or another building where I have space for myself and power outlets. I feel like I work better there than in my room, personally. What I usually do is study, work on my assignments (researching, writing, cleaning data…), apply for jobs (that is plenty of work already, believe me!) or just dedicate time to my projects, of which I have plenty of

3 Tips for aspiring aviation professionals:

  1. For aviation geeks, especially people passionate about airlines and aviation students, I recommend watching interviews with current and former airline CEOs. It is one of my hobbies. I have watched many of these interviews and I think there is so much you can learn from the people who are at the top because they are there for a reason. Those who aspire to be the future managers and leaders of our industry should learn from the current leaders.
  2. The job-hunting process can be tiring and disappointing. Writing cover letters, filling out application forms, looking for offers, networking, assessments, interviews, researching… It is a whole job itself! You had better not feel put off or blue whenever you receive a rejection email or you just receive nothing! Be constant and patient until you get it. Rejections are part of the game.
  3. Be very flexible and open job-wise. What I mean by this is that it will be harder for you to find a job if you are focused on only one type of job. Even if you are extremely keen on one specific industry (in my case, the airline and aviation industry), you had best be flexible in terms of departments. There are many types of aviation companies: aircraft manufacturers, engines manufacturers, airlines, airports, consultancy firms, regulatory authorities… and within each of them, there are many possible departments. For instance, airlines do network planning, revenue management, aircraft scheduling, maintenance, finance, marketing, crew scheduling, fleet planning… In my case, I am quite interested in all of these fields, so I am not rigid in this regard, even if Airline Revenue Management is likely the field that attracts me the most.


Photo by Andrew Ruiz on Unsplash