Atif Saeed is one of many Pakistani Americans who are in the headlines for setting examples worth emulating. The aviation executive recently took over as the Director of Operations at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). It is the fifth-largest hub for American Airlines and the primary hub for the Northeastern United States, as well as its primary European and transatlantic gateway. Additionally, the airport is a regional cargo hub for UPS Airlines and a focus city for the ultra-low-cost airline Frontier Airlines.
Saeed is responsible for overseeing the airport’s daily operations, including airfield management, airside and landside operations, and emergency management. He also works closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulatory agencies to ensure the airport is in compliance with all safety and security regulations. He oversees the annual servicing of 32 million passengers, 106,000 full-time jobs, and the generation of $16.8 billion every year.
Saeed has been in the aviation business for the past several years and enjoys a unique position in the aviation industry. After taking over as the Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia International Airport on Dec. 1, 2022, Saeed is determined to make a difference in the passenger experience at PHL.
“My aspiration is that we continue to incrementally improve our customer experience at our airport through proper investments both in infrastructure and the services we provide and really would love for us to be an example for others to look at in terms of high level of customer experience when we get to 2026 when we really have a spotlight on us,” Saeed told The Philadelphia Tribune in a recent interview.
But who is Saeed, and why did he come to the Philadelphia International Airport is the most frequently asked question. Saeed was born in Pakistan. He is one of five children. His mother was a teacher and his father was an attorney.
Saeed came to the US for studies when he was 17, but would drop out to pursue several entrepreneurial endeavors, ranging from owning multiple restaurants to running a limousine and sedan transportation for nearly nine years.
After operating several small businesses for years, Saeed decided to go back to college, earning his bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Phoenix, and then a Master’s of Business Administration from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. He continued to expand his professional development, taking courses on government administration, airport management, and leadership in airport spaces.
Following his graduation, Saeed began work as Assistant Director of Landside Operations for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) based in Minneapolis.
His decision to enter the airport industry wasn’t just because it put together his knowledge in business and public policy, but let him fulfill the desire to support his community.
“I [oversaw] the parking and ground transportation operations, which is a very major revenue source for all airports — including Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport — which is a commercial airport that [the MAC] runs similar to Philadelphia International Airport,” Saeed told Al Dia newspaper in a separate interview recently.
“Airports deeply depend upon the passenger to travel to our airports for generating revenue… Losing all the revenue while having to run an airport, which is a very high fixed cost business, became really, really challenging,” Saeed told Al Dia newspaper.