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

Companies in the aviation industry are in a strong cost savings mode while also trying to recover from all losses of the past years. Companies are trying to find ways to squeeze the penny in any legally possible way.
Beware both customer and employee experience!


Heini Noronen-Juhola

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 26.08.2022

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 pandemic 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 others. One that has been hurt is the aviation industry. All the companies in the industry are in a strong cost savings mode while also trying to recover from all losses. Companies are trying to find ways to squeeze the penny in any way that is legally possible.

The need to find cost savings is so big that it may affect the customer experience – traditionally the sacred mantra of the aviation business.

How aviation business can do cost savings that don’t turn against themselves

For many years the unspoken, only rule in aviation has been that companies must maximize the profits in any legal way. Since aviation is a very volatile industry, this has led to 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 in the security check services at major airports as a lack of staff. Many employees have found better jobs in other industries after the pandemic, but the change rate of personnel was high already before.

The other topic to be very careful with cost savings, is the passenger experience. Companies 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 passengers starts to feel being ripped off. In an irregularity situation, speaking with an airline chat bot can drive one mad.

Values and ethics without hidden agendas

Aviation and values are not often discussed at the same time. Of course safety and security as values belong strongly with the industry, but I’m talking merely about values in making business.

Because of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, many people have started to think more about the ethical side of life. Also, the heavy heat waves in summer 2022 definitely increased the feeling of 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 respect employees as individuals that actually have a life. This would lead to fair working shifts, training and education paid by the employer or decent pension plans.

As a passenger I would love to be able to speak with an airline representative in person whenever in need of specific service. I would also love to buy something to eat during the flight without having 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.

All this costs money obviously. But are there long term alternatives in this ethically conscious environment?

People tend to love those that make the world better

Sustainability will be a huge cost issue for the whole aviation industry in the very near future. Using sustainable aviation fuel is about 2-4 times more expensive than the traditional aviation fuel. 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 that encourage more decent working agreements or better customer experience. In the future, there may be laws on the usage of sustainable aviation fuel, but so far they do not exist. Nothing is yet forcing the aviation companies to choose 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 an internal discussion of that kind. I just hope, that inside those organizations there is at least an understanding of the changing ethical attitudes among employees and customers.

Aviation employees and passengers tend to love those aviation companies that make the world of aviation better.