Athens - It is a great pleasure to attend my first Hermes event and to contribute to the discussion on airline education and performance. Thank you, Kostas for organizing an interesting day in such beautiful surroundings.
Commercial aviation is a powerful force for good in our world. I call it the business of freedom.
I do so to remind people of the amazing opportunities that aviation makes possible. It gives us the freedom to connect and build communities in ways that were not possible at any other time in human history.
It underpins the success of businesses by giving them freedom to sell their goods in global markets. And it will be a driver of an even more inclusive globalization that will make our world a more prosperous place.
That leads to the premise underlying this meeting—that the demand for air transport will double over the next two decades.
There are many challenges that we must overcome to ensure that this industry is prepared to meet that demand. Key among them is recruiting, developing and retaining appropriately skilled staff.
Each of us here has had the privilege of building a successful career in aviation. We know first-hand just how fulfilling it is to be a part of an industry that brings people together, drives economic development and enriches the world.
I am sure that you will share my pride that respondents to a recent IATA travelers’ poll recognized that aviation fosters global understanding. But…
- Fewer than a third believed it is doing enough to address its environmental impact, and
- And only about a third believed that it is a great place to work.
In a separate US ranking of the top 100 places to work, only three airlines made the list. And in Northern Europe, there is even a movement developing to discourage flying by shaming air travelers (on social media) over the environmental damage they cause.
What message are these findings sending us? My analysis is that our industry has a very favorable reputation for what it does. But we are under scrutiny for how we do it. And if we are not careful, in parts of the world it will impact our ability to attract the best and brightest to careers in aviation.
That is not surprising. As industry leaders, we are together at many of the same forums around the world. We are great at speaking to ourselves and interacting with our closest stakeholders. That does not leave much time to engage with those on the outside—the people who grant us the license to grow via public opinion, and the people we need to build their careers in, and eventually lead, this very special industry.
Admittedly, the reputational concern is concentrated in the developed world and most intensely in Europe. But if we do not respond to it with honesty and candor, it will spread. And the severity of the issue is already having an impact.
There were reports a few weeks ago about institutional investors withdrawing from OEM equities because of their role in climate change.
That is what happened with the tobacco industry. It is not a place that we want to be. In fact, we have a great story to tell. And we should share it.
IATA, working with the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), is planning to address the environmental aspects of this by kicking off an enhanced advocacy and communications campaign later this year that will represent a significant investment for our association.
But I am under no illusions that we alone will change the world. So we will be encouraging other stakeholders—including our member airlines—to join in the effort. We will have more details about this as our plans firm up over the coming months.
The Developing World
In developing countries, the reputation of our industry is in much better shape. People aspire to fly and to build careers in the industry. The issues that we face there are more concerned with having the resources available to develop this talent.
The International Airline Training Fund (IATF) spearheads IATA’s efforts to close the skills gap.
Over the last three decades, this Fund has invested nearly $20 million in high-impact training initiatives in developing nations. Over that period, some 38,000 aviation professionals at 125 airlines have benefited.
Focus is key to making an impact with a limited budget. So, we aim the IATF’s efforts at (1) accelerating the implementation of relevant global standards, and (2) building the means for airlines to improve and sustain their financial health.
What does this look like when implemented?
We identified the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) as a critical standard that was challenging for some carriers in Africa.
Of course, implementing IOSA is a key commitment of the Abuja Declaration, which aimed to achieve world-class safety levels in Africa. So, the IATF provided training that enabled 19 African carriers to join the IOSA registry. And I believe that this has played a role in helping improve the safety record of African carriers.
The emphasis on financial health led us to support participation in diploma programs for high-potential individuals in African carriers where we saw the greatest need. The training centered on essential skills—strategy, route network management and revenue management.
It is difficult to establish a direct correlation between the training programs and the performance of the airlines. But I do not believe that it is a coincidence that we see positive strategic moves in the region.
For example, in the past couple of years, over 50 new intra-African routes have opened and about 20 countries have committed to the intra-African connectivity process.
I have focused on Africa because that is where the IATF is most active. It is also where we see some of the fastest growth: While the global air transport market will double in size over the next two decades, Africa will triple.
The point that I want to make is that well-structured training initiatives addressing specific issues can have an impact on performance, as we are seeing in Africa.
Training is a vital function for IATA. IATA Training exists separately to the IATF. IATA Training has a broad mandate to provide the industry with training support.
Each year, it interacts with over 100,000 students through its global network of training centers. We are redeveloping our training strategy to make it even more accessible, tailored to varying budgets and delivering a solid return on investment for the airlines.
That is not meant as a commercial plug for IATA Training. What I want to highlight is IATA’s firm commitment to playing a role in training the aviation workforce of the future. But the best efforts of IATA and the IATF will not be enough—nor will the combined efforts of the entire industry.
The support of governments is needed in aligning education priorities and resources to the skills that aviation will need.
Governments in developing nations should take particular note. Some governments may see aviation as a luxury, in comparison to priorities like public health, sanitation, basic education and so on. So we must articulate better the strong link between a successful aviation sector and the development of nations.
If we take the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the basics for development, we can see a clear relationship between aviation and 15 of the 17 goals. The message that IATA sends to all governments is to view the development of aviation connectivity as a strategic priority.
What are some of the things on which we need to focus? Let me refer back to the IATF which has done a lot of work in this area. Among the IATF’s key concerns, I would highlight four priorities in no particular order:
1. Increasing training collaboration among industry stakeholders—airlines, regulators, regional airline association and OEMs;
2. Developing partnerships with academia to create top notch aviation-focused programs for airline executives;
3. Democratizing pilot training by making it more financially accessible, in order to meet the aviation industry needs in the long term; and,
4. Developing globally-recognized industry standards and best practices in terms of training for the aviation industry.
It is no coincidence that these are all multi-stakeholder activities. Ensuring that aviation education and performance issues are adequately addressed in the developing world will, for sure, require the active support of multiple stakeholders in industry and in governments.
The last thought that I want to leave for the consideration of this forum is the importance of gender diversity.
Aviation provides tremendous opportunities for women and for men. But the participation of women in the IATA Board of Governors is a good indication that women have not risen through the industry ranks to the top positions in equal proportion.
Our Board of Governors is composed of 31 airline CEOs of whom two are women. And I am sorry to report that I do not see that changing very quickly because there just are not many women CEOs in the airlines.
The IATF recently launched a Women in Aviation Diploma program in Africa. Globally, IATA is working with Korn-Ferry, CANSO, ACI, IAWA and other organizations on a best-practices report that we will publish later this year. And at the IATA AGM we will recognize individuals and teams that are making a positive difference on diversity and inclusion in aviation.
Balancing gender in all professions and at all levels of the industry will take a huge effort and time. But I am hopeful that we will eventually get there, because the business benefits of a diverse workforce are becoming crystal clear.
Boeing estimates that by 2037 we will need over 600,000 new pilots. We can debate the exact number, but there is not much disagreement that attracting, training and hiring anywhere near this magnitude of skilled staff will be a challenge. And it will become that much harder if we are not fully engaging women who make up half the population.
I have highlighted three areas where I see challenges in finding, retaining and developing the people that we will need to take our industry—the business of freedom—into the future:
- Positioning aviation as a responsible industry and a good career opportunity;
- Finding learning and development resources in developing nations; and,
- Balancing gender across all aspects of aviation and at all levels of seniority.
There are two common elements in all three of these.
- The first is the need for urgency. It will take time to achieve results in these areas. But that is no excuse to delay action. The world in which we do business is rapidly changing and we need a workforce that is developing at an equal - if not greater - pace.
- The second is the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to finding solutions. No single entity will be able to deliver success.
I commend Hermes—a multi-stakeholder leadership forum—for taking up the topic of Education and Performance as its theme for the year.
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute some initial thoughts to your explorations. I look forward to an interesting day ahead and to following Hermes’ work in this area as the year progresses.