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The American Airlines Culture Failure

The American Airlines Culture Failure

Just a few days after we saw United Airlines drag a passenger off a flight, another airline, in this case American Airlines, generated social media controversy, and this is notable for several reasons. Apparently, there was a dispute over a stroller and a mother of two got hit perhaps with the stroller by an “American Airlines Staff Member.” And in this case, a passenger intervened and offered violence to the offender. I’m very proud that he did. It might be more economically efficient to allow airline employees to humiliate and injure passengers at will but I am still a man and an American and I don’t like being pushed around and I don’t like seeing other people pushed around. You can see the video by clicking on the link below.

http://www.cnn.com/videos/travel/2017/04/22/american-airlines-video-incident-raw.cnn

The American Airlines Culture Failure

There is something wrong with the ethics culture at these two airlines, but probably all the airlines in this nation have a problem.

I was doing a little background research and came up with an article from 1999 called – Airline industry still behaves like oligarchy, despite deregulation from the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Here’s a relevant quote from the article:

A case in point is the issue of who is to blame for the increased delays in air travel. The airlines blame the FAA and the weather. The FAA in turn blames the airlines for impractical scheduling. The real problem is that most of the airlines are not customer focused. They focus on operational efficiency and treat most of us as human freight. In fact, they keep raising the price for us as human freight because we are a lot more inconvenient than the freight they carry in the belly of the plane.

How hard is it to solve this on-time issue with a true “customer focus?” It seems to me there’s a very straightforward solution to this problem. It does, of course, require a focus on the customer–something sorely lacking in the airline industry.

Notwithstanding United Airlines’ ads to the contrary, I can find no evidence of a change in how they, or any other airline, appear to view customers. Passengers just seem to be an impediment to on-time travel.

This little piece of the an article written by Michael Gooz almost a decade ago is still dead on in explaining what the problem is.

And the problem is simple – for the airlines people don’t matter. There are too few airlines so even if you don’t like one if you want to get somewhere you’re going to have to use it and in that market, you can treat people anyway you want. You can overbook, you can throw paying passengers off the plane and if a little violence is necessary to keep the passenger in line, we’re going to have a little violence.

There is a solution. You may not have any leverage with the airline but it is a federally regulated industry and they have to answer to the government. Your one voice may have no effect on the industry but the federal government can outlaw overbooking, regulate when you can be deplaned (or re-accomodated), and they can penalize the airlines with millions in fines for delays and injured passengers.

When corporations get too big for humans to affect individually, the only response that remains is joint action.

James Pilant

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