Airlines Face Challenges of Service Disruption with Digital Staff Optimization a Key Opportunity for Improvement
As the airline industry recovers from the downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic, the negative headlines of cancelled flights take the sheen out of the summer season. The impact of staffing shortages at airports and airlines, with the loss of personnel in the aviation industry resulting from the extended shutdown, is a growing concern.
Policy hasn’t helped, particularly in Europe, where what the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has dubbed the “premature return of 80/20 slot rules” force airlines to schedule more flights than airports are perhaps ready to handle due to a ground crew shortage and staffing shortages at border control check-points.
It’s a lose-lose proposition for all involved. No one in the aviation industry, landside or airside, wants to be in the news for failing to deliver service to the passengers who rely on them.
But there are long-term systemic issues that we also need to face, including the attractiveness of the industry to new hires, particularly digital-native (Gen Z) recruits, and our ability to retain talent in a demanding marketplace. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, IATA, Boeing and others were already warning of a considerable staffing shortage across the board, ranging from a pilot shortage to cabin crew, ground staff, skilled maintenance and more. Proposed solutions then included a greater adoption of platforms for training and staff management.
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Those predicted aviation staffing shortages have only become more immediate and more severe. And emerging decentralized business models, like platforms, remain the best option to address the gap between the supply and demand of skilled personnel.
“The industry is expected to increase employment further this year, continuing to rebuild the workforce following the significant decline observed in 2020,” IATA writes in its June 2022 Airline Economic Performance Report. “Total employment is nevertheless expected to remain below the pre-pandemic level for some time. The time taken to recruit, train, and undertake the necessary security checks and other requirements before staff are ‘job-ready’ is presenting a challenge for the industry in 2022. In some cases, employment delays may act as a constraint on an airline’s ability to meet passenger demand. In countries where the economic recovery from the pandemic has been swift (V-shaped) and the unemployment rate is low, tight labor markets and skill shortages are likely to contribute to upwards pressure on wages.”
Source: IATA Economics
Collaboration for The Future of Flight: The Benefits of Platforms
While the aviation industry works on a defined framework of rules and procedures, the nature of work is evolving in the world around us. The way in which we work must keep up, without sacrificing safety practices. It may sound like a tall order, but platforms make it possible.
Just looking at the IATA Labor report alone, we can see that the industry is already maximizing labor capacity under the current aviation working model, with productivity recovering, despite a reduced labor force, and the costs of labor remaining low.
But is that the best we can do for ourselves and for the people who work in aviation today? Will it be enough for the people we’d like to have working in aviation tomorrow?
The simple answer is: no. The metrics of productivity illustrated in this helpful chart from IATA are based on work performed with legacy systems, with communication and collaboration still happening by telephone, fax, notes, and memos distributed on paper, and of course, the record-keeping required by regulators.
Communication and collaboration in many corners of aviation are far from optimal. Imagine how much more productive the people of aviation would be if they were collaborating with modern tools. Platforms optimize knowledge management, providing a shared brain, a central point where the organization can review issues in context and collaborate to resolve them, at the same time sharing know-how.
Ensuring a free flow of information, across time zones, across functional areas, and across generations would boost the productivity of aviation significantly— we estimate at least 20%—and bring the aviation workspace into a modern era. This is not only essential for organizational efficiency. It will also make the aviation workplace more attractive to a fresh generation of GenZ working professionals who may have other expectations rather than using printers, fax machines, or emails, and who will think of telex communication as an urban legend.
From Recruiting to Upskilling and Beyond: The benefits of digitalization
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published recommended measures to prevent greater loss of staff and to recruit new staff. The Association has recognized that digital tools can play an important role in staff optimization and training.
While the most recent statement addresses the ground handling shortage the principles apply to recruiting and retention for all key operational functions of the industry. They are, in essence, an extension of human resource and training priorities IATA has previously stated for other operation-critical functions.
- Speeding-up the training processes through competency-based training, assessments and online training formats
- Increasing the efficiency of staff utilization
- Digitalization and Modernization
- Digitalization of aircraft turn around
- Modernization of equipment and processes
“Harnessing data to improve safety and efficiency is crucial,” said Monika Mejstrikova, IATA’s Director of Ground Operations, speaking at the 33rd IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC), in Prague at the end of 2021. “The overall aim is to be able to make data-based operational decisions that will cut costs, improve performance and contribute to the industry’s net zero commitment.”
The sphere of aviation maintenance has similar needs. The highly-skilled individuals who keep planes operating safely are also in high demand, and face pressure to accomplish more. Technology must empower them, improve knowledge exchange and communications resulting in better collaboration to boost efficiency. With empowered maintenance professionals and data driven insights suggest: the invisible can be made visible, the aviation industry can minimize downline effects or avoid the disruptions of grounded aircraft, and gain a more effective life-cycle management of the global aviation fleet.
There is an opportunity for a new era of empowered apprenticeship in aviation, one in which recruiting is simplified and new hires have the confidence that senior-most experts will have an open platform to advise them, even if they work in different hangars and in different countries.
As a team who deeply understands and respects the experience, resourcefulness and know-how of our industry, we’ve committed ourselves to offering aviation the platform to keep flying.
Article written by Beacon. Read full paper here
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