The rigid focus on bonuses for management and profit for shareholders of airports and airlines has a name. It is called greed. Unfortunately, this has become the standard for many in European aviation management.
For years, the management of airports have been chasing larger bonusses for themselves and their shareholders by outsourcing people and bringing down terms and conditions to a point where people start running away from the industry. Many of their airline counterparts haven’t done much better: be it with cutting employees terms and conditions, creating fake structures to lower labour costs, intimidating governments into reducing rates and taxes, or even flying commercially into a potential war zone until the very last moment... Some airline CEOs are very creative when it comes to increasing profits.
And for that they seem to be happy to reward themselves. Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary had already returned to the pre-Corona income and bonus level as early as in April 2021. His pilots, however, are still handing in 20% of their income every month and a recent proposal to restore income to pre-pandemic levels was rejected by the same management.
The management of some other European carriers have acted in the same line by receiving postponed bonuses from the Corona years, while at the same time complicating CLA negotiations, which would restore the income of the employees.
Giving yourself as a manager all kinds of financial benefits during or just after an unprecedented crisis in European aviation is not only immoral but also causes anger
Giving yourself as a manager all kinds of financial benefits during or just after an unprecedented crisis in European aviation is not only immoral but also causes anger, demotivation and loss of support among your own employees, i.e., among those who contribute every day to the success of their company and to regaining market share.
Virtually all professional pilots in Europe have had to make financial sacrifices of double-digit percentages per year since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Other airline personnel also contributed their share. This was done to somewhat mitigate the financial setbacks caused by the lack of flights and passengers during the corona crisis for their employers. These agreements were made on a temporary basis as long as the pandemic continued. Surprisingly, the definition of temporariness appears to be different for the management and the other personnel of the company.
It is logical that managing a company means paying close attention to the cost aspects and making profit. But if you consider yourself as a manager so much more important than your employees, it harms your entire company – and it has an impact on your ability to attract and retain your employees. Particularly in post-pandemic times, where the aviation sector has lost much of its attractiveness, it is time that setting a good example as management becomes (again) the ‘new normal’ of aviation leadership.
by Otjan de Bruijn, ECA President, Captain Boeing 777