Is Your Flight Department Still Relevant?

Flight Departments working in tandem with Corporate priorities can easily become misaligned. Andre Fodor shares some areas to keep in step with the head office…

Andre Fodor  |  16th May 2022
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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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    Is your Flight Department Still Aligned to Corporate Priorities

    Today could be a very good time to reassess how well the Flight Department is aligned to the Corporation’s priorities. Flight Department that were completely in-touch with the needs of the company’s passengers before the Covid pandemic could be emerging from those two years out of sync. Here’s why…

    Even without Covid, there has been a gradual shifting in the way people use private aircraft, with the fundamentals of ownership and aircraft usage morphing somewhat as more business is done outside the office, and work and lifestyle become intermingled. Covid-19 added its own mix, attracting new people to private flight as a means to shield from contamination aboard the airlines.

    Essentially, the trends show the workplace is losing its office walls, with more people being free to work remotely, and at new and exciting locations.

    There is still high value and desire for face-to-face interaction, but these are no longer restricted to the office. Aircraft that once reflected the office surroundings with cabin interiors resembling the boardroom, and seating arrangements designed to promote and conduct business, are being reimagined. Fast Wi-Fi, high resolution screens, audio systems, top-of-the-range global communication capability, and plush interiors promote comfortable living as much as they do business activities.

    Assessing the alignment of your flight department’s service with a corporation’s priorities is a multi-layered, subjective topic. What were once tangible goals of helping achieve a corporation’s financial results is becoming mixed with benchmarking individuality, quality of life, personal time-savings, expectations, and perceptions. Let me offer a few examples…

    Evolving Priorities

    One of my mentors says that if you don’t embrace change, aviation is not a good career choice. He’s right. As Flight Department Managers, it’s essential that we evolve with the market, keeping what we do meaningful and updated.

    As an example, in the past we may not have given much thought to carbon credits and volunteer-based noise curfews. Today, however, this could affect the corporation’s image, and could be vital to promoting the right corporate identity. It’s a relatively minor shift in thinking, but demonstrates how our business awareness must align closely with what our Chief Executives do as people and as a company.

    It’s worth looking at our employers’ holdings and considering how one asset might complement another. For example, is it possible to use a land holding for offsetting carbon emissions? Should the same insurance broker be used for our aviation needs as the one that insures our buildings and equipment? Are the backgrounds of the various product and service suppliers to the Flight Department aligned with our corporate image and guidelines?

    Aligning priorities between the Corporation and Flight Department requires a deeper knowledge of the Executives. Whereas our priority was once on-time departures, the tightness of the schedule, and transportation, today we need to have an added focus on the quality and sourcing of the catering, the perceived ‘political correctness’ of the vendor, the look and brand of the transportation, and the overall presentation of all services – including flight crews.

    Privacy and Safety Unchanged

    Some things remain unchanged, however – and should remain at the core of all the Flight Department does. For example, at our monthly staff meeting and emergency procedures drill, privacy is always reinforced.

    Privacy is one area that hasn’t changed, so don’t let the more relaxed nature of the aircraft cabin, or new destinations, lead you to think otherwise. Work trips do not belong to the crew, and, therefore, we have a policy of no social media while we’re on a work trip.

    If asked where we are going by people who don’t need to know, we give a generic reply, such as “overseas”, or “north-east”, adding that we’re unauthorized to discuss destinations specifically.

    Together with privacy, safety must be addressed. A few years ago when I was assessing a flight department for operational improvements, I noticed someone on the internet had a higher than normal interest in the principal and was tracking his movements. Every time the company’s aircraft either departed or arrived at the airport, it was posted on social media with negative remarks. It was an eye-opener for the business owner and enabled the company to find ways to mitigate that unwanted exposure.

    In Summary…

    So what are the priorities in today’s flight department? As we’ve outlined, fundamentally the core principles remain the same. We are still charged with providing safe, private, efficient, and legal transportation. That remains the prime directive.

    The area misalignment may have occurred over time is in support of a lifestyle that has shifted through the evolving way we do business today, through the evolving way corporate image is judged, and the growing lifestyle element within private aviation.

    As professional managers, operators, and crew we must stay current in the trends, paying closer-than-ever attention to what our hierarchy is consuming, reading, and discussing. And we need to adapt our services to come in-line with these new realities. That’s savvy management – evolution that validates we’re good at what we do!

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