Prepared for Takeoff
Relating to both the Americas and Europe on a professional level can be a difficult balancing act of cultural variances. But for Titus Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing the Americas for airberlin, it’s just another day at the office.
Airberlin, the second- largest German airline and the only international carrier serving Southwest Florida, specializes in global business travel. Johnson’s job is to promote the destinations one can fly to, be it for corporate functions or simply for pleasure.
While the airberlin crew is in town celebrating 20 years of service with Southwest Florida International Airport ( RSW), I have the opportunity to speak with Johnson himself. We meet in a quiet corner of the lobby at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa on Sanibel Island to escape a windy day near the water. I congratulate him on the company’s anniversary, and he humbly shoots back with a compliment on how supportive RSW has been.
The London native is delightful upon first impression, and his personality seems as well- rounded as his sales and marketing strategies— he’s charming yet relatable; confident yet modest. His ability to connect with people, which is absolutely vital for an executive of his caliber, is evident in his behavior.
Johnson admits to being a lifelong lover of travel and believes it to be the best education one can have. In his eyes, transcontinental experiences can benefit anyone, and he’s happy to help individuals fly to desired locations.
“I’m lucky enough in my job to offer people the opportunity to travel,” Johnson says. “It offers them the ability to meet and
understand different people in different cultures, and that in itself is a great learning experience. You get to understand other ways of business— global ways of business— and regional variation.”
Airberlin takes off three days a week from RSW and lands at Düsseldorf Airport ( DUS) in Germany, but passengers’ adventures needn’t end there.
“We link Southwest Florida to the world,” Johnson says. “From Düsseldorf, one can fly seamlessly with very short connection times to 15 European destinations with airberlin.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Johnson says airberlin’s five U. S. gateways— Chicago, Fort Myers, Los Angeles, Miami and New York— are internationally endorsed.
“We promote Southwest Florida very heavily, not just in Germany, but in all cities that connect through Düsseldorf to Southwest Florida,” he says, adding that the area can expect an estimated $ 250,000 revenue boost with every smooth landing to RSW.
“Airberlin has been the biggest international contributor to Southwest Florida’s economy,” Johnson continues. “We have really put [ the region] on the map.”
Johnson strategically uses the word “we” throughout his sentences when speaking of marketing endeavors, but airberlin communications manager Madeleine Vogelsang insists it’s Johnson’s technique and genuine efforts that contribute to the carrier’s success.
“Titus brings a very fresh approach to airberlin and the Americas,” Vogelsang says. “There’s a cultural difference between the way Americans and Europeans view tourism and destinations … and he’s been able to give us some new motivation and define our goals.”
She adds, “He’s a great team player. He listens, and that’s always such a difficult virtue to take on.”
Johnson’s grounded attitude likely stems from his modest beginnings in the airline business. He obtained his master’s in air transport management from the City University in London and worked in the ticket office at Australian Airlines. From there, he joined London City Airport, promoting it to both passengers and airlines. In 1995, he landed at Antwerp- based VLM Airlines.
I’M LUCKY ENOUGH IN MY JOB TO OFFER PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRAVEL. IT OFFERS THEM THE ABILITY TO MEET AND UNDERSTAND DIFFERENT PEOPLE IN DIFFERENT CULTURES, AND THAT IN ITSELF IS A GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE.” — TITUS JOHNSON, VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES AND MARKETING THE AMERICAS FOR AIRBERLIN
“It was the classic case of a small airline getting bigger,” Johnson recalls. Comparable to a small fish aiming to make a splash in a large pond, he had to prove he was savvy enough to expand the carrier. In a defining moment of success, he helped VLM Airlines become the largest operator at London City Airport.
Another major thing happened around that time. On September 11, 2001, Johnson watched the news on television as the World Trade Center crumbled before his eyes.
In this time of worldwide despair, Johnson says the attacks resonated with countless airline professionals. “It was a really shocking experience for us, one which I’ll never forget. We felt it personally as well,” he says.
London City Airport experienced a mandatory shutdown, so in just 24 hours, Johnson moved the entire VLM Airlines
operation 40 miles away to London Southend Airport. “We were the only airline to manage that,” he recalls.
A few years later, Johnson became the U. K. and Ireland country manager for airberlin. In 2012, he was promoted to his current position in New York City. Johnson quickly fell for the cultural melting pot and its high- energy environment, and to this day he shares gratitude for the professionals who helped restore the city after its fateful moment in history.
“Every day when I see the New York fire and police department, I never forget 9/ 11,” he says, solemnly. “Myself and so many people in Europe have tremendous respect for them.”
In his downtime, Johnson enjoys staying active with a variety of sports, but there will always be a place in his heart for traveling and helping likeminded individuals in Southwest Florida and beyond to do the same.
WE LINK SOUTHWEST FLORIDA TO THE WORLD. FROM DÜSSELDORF, ONE CAN FLY SEAMLESSLY WITH VERY SHORT CONNECTION TIMES TO 15 EUROPEAN DESTINATIONS WITH AIRBERLIN.”
— TITUS JOHNSON, VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES AND MARKETING THE AMERICAS FOR AIRBERLIN
Going up! Airberlin recently celebrated 20 years of service with Southwest Florida International Airport, allowing for abundant experiences overseas.
Airberlin’s new business class has a one- two- one carriage seating arrangement, with fully reclining chairs ( top). With nonstop flights to Germany, airberlin allows RSW customers to fly out into the sunset and wake up in a new world ( bottom).