Happy Crew = Happy Passengers = Great Brand!

With airline mergers and takeovers happening around the world, and now looming in the US too, one of the biggest “obstacles” encountered by airlines is airline staff unions. I beg to differ.

Here are a couple of the latest news about crew unhappiness in the last few days:

  • Air France Agrees to Buy Alitalia for $1.2 Billion (but faces union troubles), March 17, 08 – Bloomberg
  • British Airways Pilots Protest Plan to Start New Airline, March 15, 08 – Bloomberg
  • Pilots have much to lose during mergers, March 9, 08 – USA Today

Internal branding as a strategic corporate communications tool

Airlines should ensure that they take good care of their employees in case of a merger, and not construe it as an obstacle. Having them in the fold and ensuring their happiness would help ensure that the passengers receive a superior brand experience. Some branding experts refer to this as internal branding, other claim this is integrated branding. Regardless of the terminology, it is an established fact that if the working conditions are good, the crew is happy, and that rubs off onto the passengers so that they too are happy.

The fact of life is if you treat a human with dignity and respect, most people will go an extra mile for you. JetBlue in the US, Virgin Atlantic in Europe and AirAsia are prime examples of airlines that are known to take good care of their staff, who in turn go the extra mile in keeping the brand Xperience top-notch.

So, how to keep the crew happy in a merger?

Consolidation in the airline industry seems inevitable, with costs shooting through the roof. Airlines till now have not come up with a good model to integrate seniority-based crew roles upon a merger. Most airlines let separate crew operate on their original routes, under separate unions – as that keeps them happy due to lack of disruption. However, a better way to do this may be to involve crews from both airlines in the merger talks right from the beginning, so that their concerns are addressed too. This way, costs can be cut effectively (the aim of the merger) and a majority of the crew will be happy, in turn ensuring happy customers.

Ponder that!

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is the Founder and CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the world’s largest aviation marketing firms working with over 85 aviation clients in the last ten years. Nigam is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior executives globally, from Chile to China. Nigam’s impassioned and honest perspectives on airline marketing have found their way to over 100 leading media outlets, including the BBC, CNBC, Reuters and Bloomberg, and into leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He writes a dedicated monthly column in Flight’s Airline Business, challenging the typical assumptions about airline marketing. His new book on airline marketing, SOAR, is an Amazon bestseller that’s shaking up the industry and inspiring other industries to learn from the best airlines. Born in India, raised in Singapore, he now lives with his wife and two young daughters in Toronto.
Shashank Nigam
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