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  • Writer's pictureHeini Noronen-Juhola

Is it OK if it's legal in the aviation business?

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Since the year 2020 the world has shown its darker side to those of us, who have always had the privilege to live in a prosperous and a peaceful environment. First the pandemia closed the borders and many businesses and even industries were put on hold. Then the unstable situation and war in Ukraine created unforeseen insecurity and a strong inflation in the European countries. All of a sudden the future predictions weren't so easy to make any more.

Some industries have been hit more than the others. One of the most hurt is the aviation industry. All the companies in the industry are in a strong cost savings mode while they are trying to recover from all the losses. The management of all the companies are trying to find ways to squeeze the penny in any way that can be legally done. The need to find cost savings is so big that it might also affect the customer experience which has traditionally been the sacred mantra in the aviation business.

How to get in aviation business cost savings that don't turn against themselves? For many years the unspoken only rule has been that the companies must maximize the profits in any legal way. Since aviation is also a very volatile industry, this has led to very bad situations in employee experience. Examples can be found in lousy working agreements, layoffs, roster planning, pension plans, salaries, and so on. This can be seen for example now in the security check services at major airports as a lack of staff since after pandemia many employees have found better jobs in other industries. The change rate of personnel was high already before the pandemia.

The other topic where you have to be very careful with cost savings is the passenger experience. You can save with inflight meals or create extra ancillary revenues by making the passengers pay extra for their bags, but somewhere goes the fine line where the passenger starts to feel being ripped off. In an irregularity situation speaking with an airline chatbot really makes you mad.

Aviation and values haven't been something that have been discussed at the same time often. Of course safety and security as values belong strongly in the industry, but I'm talking merely about values in making business. Because of pandemia and also because of the war in Ukraine, many people have started to think more about the ethical side of their life. And also, the heavy heat waves this summer definitely increase the feeling of the climate anxiety. I strongly believe that in order to survive in the future as well, the aviation business has to turn much more ethical in every way. And also express that without any hidden agendas.

It would be wonderful to see employee agreements that notice and respect the employees as persons that actually have a life. This would mean things like fair working shifts, training and education paid by the employer or decent pension plans. As a passenger I'd love to be able to speak with an airline representative in person whenever I need some specific service. I would also love to buy something to eat during the flight so that I wouldn't have to order it in advance. I would definitely want to recharge my mobile phone without an extra cost at the airport or at least have the charging options available. This all costs money obviously but what are the alternatives in the long term in this ethically conscious environment?

Sustainability will be a huge cost issue for the whole aviation industry already in the near future. Using sustainable aviation fuel is about 2-4 times more expensive than the traditional aviation fuel. With this topic I believe that the airlines will have to move on quite rapidly towards the sustainable choice even though the cost effect is obvious. Ethical thinking and climate actions go closely together.

There are no laws to encourage more decent working agreements or better customer experience. There might be laws in the future for the usage of the sustainable aviation fuel, but so far they don't exist. At the moment nothing forces the aviation companies to go into more ethical directions in these matters. Without any legislative requirements the business decisions can be made purely based on the profit targets. By-passing this thinking would require strong leadership and very few organizations are ready for this kind of an internal discussion. I just hope that inside those organizations there is at least the understanding about the changing ethical attitudes among the employees and the customers.

People tend to love those that make the world better. Employees and passengers tend to love those aviation companies that make the world of aviation better.

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