The aviation business is currently “a tale of two tickets” according to Birmingham Airport's chief executive Paul Kehoe as he was honoured by Birmingham City University for his contribution to the industry.

Mr Kehoe said that business travel remained strong at the airport but the leisure sector continued to struggle as work continued in identifying contractors for the runway extension on which building work is set to start later this year.

Mr Kehoe was speaking as he received an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University in recognition of his business achievements.

Mr Kehoe, who joined the airport as CEO in 2008, was presented with the award, alongside graduates from Birmingham City Business School and the Faculty of Health.

Mr Kehoe, who is married with two children and is chairman of Marketing Birmingham and a member of the Warwick Business School Strategy Board, said he had a long-standing relationship with the university and other educational institutions in the city.

“It is a great honour to receive this for business,” Mr Kehoe said. “Business and creativity are very important and all the things we enjoy come from a successful economy. You are in business to do good for other people, to pay taxes.”

Mr Kehoe started his career in aviation as an air traffic controller in the RAF and has worked for companies including British Aerospace, Serco Aviation and airport owner and operator TBI, where he worked from 1997 to 2005.

After TBI Mr Kehoe became the CEO of DX, the UK legal mail system, which he sold before returning to aviation as chief executive of Bristol Airport, before he joined Birmingham Airport.

The airport board is due to meet at the end of the month to discuss tenders, the business case and budget for a runway extension. A longer runway will allow larger aircraft to use the airport and offer long haul flights to destinations including the west coast of America and China with the airport hoping to have the extension operational by spring 2014.

“Business travel from the airport is growing to its hubs in Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris and Istanbul,” said Mr Kehoe. “Leisure travel is flat and that reflects consumer confidence.”

Professor David Tidmarsh, vice-chancellor of BCU, said honorary doctorates were decided by a joint group from the board of governors and senate.

Prof Tidmarsh said: “Our criteria is to see if they have had a major impact upon their field. Paul Kehoe has had that.”