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View from the cockpit

Release date:
February 2024
Air bp’s senior vice president, Federica Berra on her move to Air bp, being a female leader in aviation and working in close collaboration with customers.


Your background is in the power and gas sector, and you joined bp in 2020 before accepting the role as senior vice president at Air bp earlier this year. Was a career in aviation always something you wanted to pursue?

My father was an airline pilot, so aviation has always been of interest to me. If you had asked me when I was 16 or 17 what I wanted to do for a career, I would have said I wanted to be a pilot. However, when I was growing up in Italy some 30 years ago, the route to becoming a pilot was through the Italian Air Force, which back then was only open to men. So, I decided to study engineering. When I was offered the role as senior vice president at Air bp in July I jumped at the opportunity. I love everything about aviation and flying and it just feels right. 


What skills do you bring to the table in your new role?

I hope I bring a global mindset from working in my previous roles, which is important given the nature of what we do and our global network of fuelling locations. Many years of experience working in the upstream side of the business, help me to combine commercial & marketing expertise with capital spend discipline and portfolio management. From working in many different roles over the years, I have grown a passion for developing good leaders and highly effective happy teams!


Safety is critical to aviation fuelling, so how are you driving a safety culture within the business?

It is integral to everything that we do at Air bp, and I feel personally responsible for the safety and wellbeing of all those working in our organization, as well as our contractors and customers. I have experienced personal loss due to a workplace incident, so it’s something that I’m very close to and that I take seriously. I appreciate I am remote from the sites, so my immediate responsibility is to ensure we have the right resources and focus on safety and wellbeing of everyone in Air bp. It’s also important that I fully understand the different roles within the business and what, as well as where, the risks are to safety for all our staff. As a business, bp embodies safety and wellbeing within its culture. It’s one of the reasons the company appealed to me when I first joined in 2020.


You have a passion for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), how are you embracing this in your current role?

DE&I is a business imperative for Air bp. Our success isn’t just down to one person, it’s a collective responsibility, so having a mix of different skills, backgrounds, abilities, genders, cultures and personalities is key to evolving the business. One of the key priorities for me over the last months since joining has been to understand the pulse of the organization, meet the different teams and see how they work and how we’re empowering our staff and creating opportunities. In addition, as a global business we have locations in countries across the globe and we need to make sure our employees in the more remote locations have visibility of Air bp’s wider operations and benefit from our global connections.


What does it mean for you to be a female leader in aviation?

When I look back at the start of my own career, I was fresh out of university, working in an office in Rome and one of the things that really benefited me was having role models that I could look up to and learn from. I could see the opportunities that my peers were being offered and their ability to travel and work abroad. That really opened my eyes to what I could achieve, so I see huge value in ensuring the young talent within Air bp has access to mentors. bp is something of a pioneer when it comes to gender parity, so being a female leader is not unusual. In our top executive team, we have more women than men and 40% of our senior leadership team are also women.


How do you balance being a working mother with the demands of leading a global business?

It’s a learning process. I have two teenage daughters and they certainly keep me humble and have done wonders for my patience. The work life balance is a constant juggle, but for me, it's about establishing boundaries. It’s very important for me and my family that I leave work at the front door when I come home. Being physically active and exercising is also important for my mental wellbeing. I try and make sure I do 18,000 steps a day and I regularly go to the gym, do yoga and go for long runs at the weekend. I also practice meditation, which helps me to relax and alleviate any stresses from my working day.


SAF is key to decarbonising aviation, what are the initiatives you are pushing to scale SAF production?

Aviation is one of the most challenging industries to decarbonize and Air bp has been taking steps to help contribute to shaping a lower carbon future for the industry for nearly two decades. To date we’ve supplied SAF to more than 30 locations and continue to work with customers to create more demand. Efforts to increase supply and production include Air bp’s ongoing role in researching and developing the technologies required to bring the different SAF production technology options to commercial production. We also have a role to play in securing approvals for new SAF pathways and are continuing to invest in our own refineries and facilities to increase SAF availability. Co-processed SAF is already available from bp owned Castellon in Spain and Lingen in Germany and we plan to invest to produce more biofuels to help towards bp’s aims to produce around 100,000 barrels of biofuels per day by 2030.


Looking ahead, what do you hope to achieve for Air bp?

The three pillars I’m focused on are growth, serving our customers as best we can and working in collaboration with key stakeholders to help decarbonise the industry. We marked a major milestone last November providing fuel for the first 100% SAF transatlantic flight with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to New York JFK. The realisation of this flight has been a challenging task requiring cross industry collaboration and underlines the potential of SAF as a 100% drop-in replacement for fossil fuel today. We are also in the process of rolling out electric refuellers at airports across the globe. The first, nicknamed Evie, was deployed at Brisbane Airport last year and saw Air bp being awarded the Australian Aviation Award 2023 for Sustainability. In addition, we are looking forward to expanding the reach of our award-winning safe2go fuel data platform by marketing it to fuel operators at non-Air bp operated locations. The platform and safe2go fuelling app provides both an engineering barrier to actively help prevent misfuelling and enhanced efficiency and reliability in refuelling operations. Finally, I am looking forward to meeting more of our existing customers and continuing to build Air bp’s global network of fuelling locations.


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