Anthony Brennan, Human Resources Director, Principal Connections’ HR Leader of the Month for February 2020


Q. THE CAREER & THE PERSON Describe your career journey and tell us about Anthony Brennan the person?

The Career
After studying Hotel Management in college, my first job took me to Heathrow where I participated in a Graduate Management Programme. I accidentally ‘fell’ into HR (then called Personnel & Training) when asked to provide maternity cover for the 569 bedroom London Heathrow Airport Hotel with in excess of 300 staff. My career progressed in Hotels with various Training and Development roles where I ended up working in the 5 Star division. After hotels I joined Thorn EMI (part of the EMI Group) and had responsibility for Management Development across the UK Business. I then moved back to Ireland in 1999 to join the Merchants Group (part of south African based Dimension Data). This was an outsourced pan European call centre business based in Cork. I subsequently spent a couple of years working for Quinn Group Cavan. (Liberty Insurance being the more well-known name who took over some of that Company). I was appointed HR Director for Concern (the Irish based charity) in 2006, at that time, the operation spanned 34 countries and circa 3,000 staff working in some of the poorest countries in the World. In 2011, I joined CityJet following a period of ownership changes; the business had approximately 500 staff in 4 locations in early 2015. Today, we have 1200 staff across 10 very different locations (with different traditions, employment practices and legislation) and in that time we have acquired two airlines; Blue 1 in Helsinki and Cimber A\S in Copenhagen.

The Person
London born, I initially moved to Ireland as a teenager. Then I moved back to London after college, before moving back to Ireland finally in 1999. I have been described by friends and work colleagues as sometimes fastidious, focused, with exacting standards, straight talking but polite, but more often a complete mischief maker with a dark sense of humour. I will listen to new ideas, I am not afraid to try something different, and really enjoy selling (imaginatively) a new concept to a team.

Q. THE COMPANY Describe your current company?

CityJet is Europe’s leading regional airline based in Dublin, Ireland, operating a fleet of Avro and Bombardier aircraft on wet lease services (where it provides crew, aircraft, maintenance and operational services) across the Continent.

Established by entrepreneur Pat Byrne in 1993, CityJet pioneered services between Dublin and London City Airport. Recently The airline was purchased by a business consortium led by its original founder, Pat Byrne, and has embarked on a major programme of expansion and strategic development since. CityJet has continued to undergo significant advancement including a major rebrand and securing a new wet lease contract to SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). It operates a modern fleet of Bombardier CRJ900 passenger aircraft in the Nordic region and Scandinavia. As part of this project, CityJet purchased Finnish airline Blue1 and another regional carrier, Cimber, operating mainly from Denmark. In recent years, CityJet has refocused its activities to becoming a provider of “wet lease” services to major airlines, providing service on an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) basis. CityJet now has over 30 aircraft on wet lease to airlines across Europe, including Aer Lingus, Air France, Brussels Airlines, Hop! and SAS, flying over 1,500 flights with 100,000 passengers per week for our customer airlines.

To support this diverse operation, CityJet has crew bases in Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, London City, Helsinki, Paris, Stockholm, Tallinn and Vilnius with over 1,200 staff employed in the airline, who all provide the HR Team and me with diverse challenges.

There is a strong focus on safety and excellence, the company, (and I) are not afraid to be different, be imaginative or challenging. We all work hard to be the best, building a team of the best people to deliver this.

Q. THE CHALLENGES What do you see as the most important challenges facing HR Leaders today?

Some of the challenges facing HR include the pace of technological change and being able to keep up to date with these advances, their impact, as well as their deployment and relevance to both HR and the Business. The whole area of Artificial Intelligence somewhat scares me! Working in a customer focused business, I struggle with the concept that a possible robot could fly an airplane and or complete the safety demonstration. While there may be many business benefits to ‘drone drivers’ to replace pilots, I think it may be some time yet before the flying customer accepts a computer \ robot in the front of the airplane! For other HR Leaders the thought of Robots may be welcome.

Human Resources is people focused and like other businesses a constant challenge for us is people, finding the right people, whom you can develop, engender loyalty, engage in the organisation’s purpose and who will stay long enough to contribute.

Q. THE ADVANCES What do you believe the biggest advances in human resources will be over the next five years?

Given the pace of change that exists in the world at present and the current concerns about Climate Change as an example, the workforce today is more in tune with these \ their social responsibilities. This presents a clear challenge to the traditional ways of doing business and managing human resources. Before you ask, I don’t have an easy answer for this challenge! I do believe there is value in introducing some staff suggestions / small steps, to encourage buy in and engagement from everyone.

Creating a productive, flexible workforce whom you trust, to work from home.

Q. THE ADVICE What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Early in my career my line manager told me that it was not possible for me to do everything and that I should trust and engage those around me to do the work. She said putting it bluntly, if there’s free time around here, it should be yours and everyone else needs to be busy!

Q. THE MOTIVATION What keeps you motivated day to day?

Like a Hotel, working in an Airline can be described as pure theatre and its never dull as there is always something going on. We have a dynamic working environment and there is something addictive \ intoxicating about working in an airline. I thoroughly enjoy working with my HR Management colleagues and the extended HR Team across Europe, as they do not let me get away with anything and they keep me on my toes!

Q. THE ACHIEVEMENT What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

Completing my MBA

Q. THE STAYING CURRENT How do you stay up to date?

This is embarrassing, as I’ve let this slip recently. Is it too late to put this on my New Years Resolution list for 2020? As you may imagine, I do spend a reasonable amount of time flying across Europe and use this time to catch up on reading so I do bring a book with me and the occasional copy of HBR.


Congratulations to Anthony Brennan on being named the Principal Connections HR Leader of the Month for February 2020.


CityJet is Europe’s leading regional airline based in Dublin, Ireland, operating a fleet of Avro and Bombardier aircraft on wet lease services across the Continent.


Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading retained executive search firm and the Irish office of Agilium Worldwide LLC, ranked among the top retained executive search groups in the world.

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Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading Executive Search Firm and the Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide LLC.

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