Help Your Flight Crew Achieve a Work-Life Balance

In the demanding environment of a corporate Flight Department, there are steps all Flight Department Managers can take to ensure their team has a happy work-life balance. But what are these, and why do they matter? Andre Fodor discusses...

Andre Fodor  |  11th July 2023
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Andre Fodor
Andre Fodor

With a focused approach on global excellence and creativity, Andre Fodor has managed flight operations...

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How to help flight crew achieve work life balance

I am excited for next month when the airplane I fly and manage is scheduled to undergo a maintenance inspection lasting three weeks.

We have been planning the event for the last 16 months, but it is not the maintenance inspection that excites me the most. While the airplane will be technically grounded and unavailable, and because I have a Director of Maintenance to oversee the inspection, I will be free to take a vacation without interruption or trip callouts. Except for the occasional phone call for a progress report, I’m free to rest.

Flight Departments provide a high-end service with equally high expectations attached, and without consistent hard graft, these are difficult to achieve. As a result, flight crews can face several roadblocks to achieving the basic benefits and quality of life that are taken for granted in other professions.

Most Flight Departments are small two pilot one airplane operations, and crewing and staffing them doesn’t often allow for ‘hard’ days off or uninterrupted vacations, unless we can find ways to work around the schedule.

While our profession has finally matured into a career where work rules and personal life are both considered, the demand for pilots has given our industry a jolt. We have lost too many skilled pilots to the airlines where the compensation, benefits and work schedules are predictable and quality of life is more easily achieved. Our industry took too long to react, and we lost too many talented people as a result.

Just recently I heard from a seasoned charter pilot that although the post-Covid uptick in demand had extended his workdays, the high turn of pilots also meant a brand-new co-pilot every rotation, requiring handholding and training. The result on this pilot was increased fatigue.

Quality of life and, consequently, the happiness and productivity of all crew members is a topic we all need to be discussing and seeking to implement in our Flight Departments.

Pilot Compensation

Most companies flying private are not in the aviation business and therefore lack the understanding of how to compensate flight crews who are expected to be available 24/7. Equally, our crews need tangible data to help them understand what is fair in terms of the compensation they receive.

For example, having consulted an expert who prepared a salary study, one of our pilots once told me that he felt his compensation was unfair. I suggested we look at the survey together with the consultant. It transpired that my colleague had misunderstood the study and was looking at total compensation thinking that it represented salary only.

Once the consultant explained that the numbers represented total compensation, including benefits (medical, retirement and others), it was concluded that his salary was appropriate and fair. With that information, he was able to accurately assess if this was the job that made him happy in other facets beyond his take-home pay.

Pilot Vacations

Annual leave is right up there with compensation. I apportion an annual budget for contract pilots so that we can source cover for annual leave. This comes with the caveat that the larger and more sophisticated an airplane is, the harder it will be to secure a contract pilot with the availability to cover several days in a row.

Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee time off with too much advance notice. As a flight operation, we are too small, and contract pilots are unlikely to know their schedules several months in advance. This represents a challenge for crew members wanting to plan for a family vacation.

Nevertheless, I can provide some assurances:

  • First, everyone in our team knows that they will be home for the major holidays. Our Principals understand that this is part of the package.
  • Second, as soon as I schedule a maintenance event, I communicate to my team that this is a good time for everyone to enjoy time away from work.

Personal Pilot Growth Plan

Finally, fulfilment of a crew member’s goals, interests and development of their skills is important to promoting a healthy life balance. I take time to learn what really matters to each of my team members and develop a personal growth plan for each, including professional and personal development.

This means that if someone’s role in the workplace remains the same for a long time, by creating other potentials we can create holistic opportunities for upward mobility in their work and their life generally.

The pursuit of happiness is a challenge that we all face. Our lives change, affecting how we perceive our current situations. A stable workplace, which is customer- and employee-centric, provides stability.

Good people are important to the success of any enterprise, and by doing everything possible to give them the quality of life they deserve we are delivering efficiencies to our operation that translates into superlative service.

Read more articles focused on Flight Departments  by Andre Fodor

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