Airplane II: The Sequel

Airplane II: The Sequel

A Growing Number of High-Profile Incidents Aboard Airplanes Evidence Industry-Wide Ethics & Compliance Failures

As April 2017 comes to a close, so closes a month for the airline industry that would make even Leslie Nielsen embarrassed. Between a near brawl between a stroller-wielding passenger, her supporter, and the airline staff; a passenger forcefully dragged off of an airplane for refusing to vacate his seat; cell phone cinematographers vying to become the next YouTube superstar and a variety of mass groundings due to horrible spring weather in the eastern half of the United States it is easy to say that April is a month to forget for the airline industry as a whole.

As the number of high-profile incidents grew exponentially throughout the month it is abundantly clear that airlines need to take a hard look at their staff training policies and codes of conduct to determine exactly what is most important. Failing to do so may cause the industry to collapse from within as it appears passengers have reached the boiling point of frustration with poor customer service and overall indecent treatment both in the terminal and on board aircraft.

Last week my colleague Darin Hartley wrote an excellent article analyzing the ties the recent airline incidents have had to de-regulation and lack of competition in the marketplace. Darin's article reminded me of the fact that airlines have the most captive audience possible, as passengers have a need to travel to see friends and family in an ever broadening (yet shrinking) globe. The airline industry understands this and has chosen to squeeze every potential profit dollar out of the consumer even at the expense of any semblance of customer service. Such a practice is in and of itself evidence of failed compliance practice.


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Just because the airline industry is relatively deregulated does not mean that airlines lack corporate responsibility to adhere to a set of ethical values for conduct and basic human decency. Although the argument can certainly be made that David Dao himself acted irresponsibly in refusing to abide by the contractual policy of random selection for removal (and Dao himself has a sketchy ethical history that we will not get into in this article), the resulting media firestorm certainly outweighs the utility of placing five employees on a 45 minute flight from Chicago to Louisville. The bottom line is there are a multitude of solutions that do not involve police, violence, and cell-phone cameras. Similarly, simple core policies and practice could have avoided the now infamous "stroller incident" that came hot on the heels of the United fiasco.

By implementing a policy for customer service, business ethics, and employee training the airlines could improve their relationships with customers quickly. Just last year I attended a seminar in Chicago that was given by two high-level Delta executives that discussed the need for innovative safety training for passengers onboard its flights, yet the seminar failed to recognize the fact that airline employees also need training on how to conduct themselves when faced with angry and/or irritated passengers. The time has come for airlines to take a stand and prepare their workforce on how to best deal with the types of incidents discussed above before they get out of hand. We can only hope they do so before it is too late.


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Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!  Don't forget to register for our upcoming May 18, 2017 free Webinar entitled "Training for the Compliance Triathlon"   

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Esq., Syntrio Advisory Board Member and Senior Legal Counsel

Posted in Code of Conduct, Compliance Training, Diversity and Respect, Ethics, Managing Within the Law, Sexual Harassment and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .