Future Cultural Challenges for Airlines And Airports
Aviation Update|August 2021
Introduction Assuming we are all alike is one of the greatest mistakes we human beings are making all the time. Another mistake we constantly make is to assume that our way of doing things is the only right way. So when people do things differently e.g. how people queue up or what we ascribe status to we try to educate them to do or see it our way. This is usually not well received and a conflict starts.
Finn Majlergaard

Until today people around the world have largely agreed on how we should behave in an airport and onboard an aircraft. The passenger growth has been so moderate that all the new passengers adopted the existing behavioural patterns without any major questions. With the rapid growth in the number of passengers ahead, we will experience a lot of cultural clashes both in the airport and onboard the aircraft because some of the new passenger groups have cultural norms and values far from the existing group of passengers.

Some examples of upcoming cultural conflicts

• What if one ethnic group insists that they have priority over another ethnic group?

• What if a gender insists that it has superiority over the other gender?

• What if a person with one religious belief refuses to sit next to a person with another religious belief?

• What if an obese person claims the right to occupy 2 seats?

• What if some passengers complain about another passenger or group of passengers’ odor?

• What if a group of passengers gets irritated because of a number of elderly people who needs more time when boarding or de-boarding the aircraft?

The list is endless which is why we have to develop a culture where the norms prevent conflicts to develop. We also need to train staff both on the ground and in the air to tackle cultural disagreements before they develop into a conflict.

Your rules don’t matter

You might have rules for how you want your crew and staff to behave in different situations, but to your customers, these rules don’t matter. The only thing that matters to each of your customers is the sense of justice and level of fairness that he or she experiences. That sense of justice and perception of fairness is very individual based on cultural background, social class, age, occupation, religion, nationality and many other factors.

3 key cultural challenges

According to the IATA report India, China, Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa are the new fast-growing markets. Africa alone will provide 192 million new passengers by 2013 according to IATA.

This is of course great news for the aviation industry. There are however some challenges associated with these new markets that have to be addressed by both airports and airlines.

While IATA and others are focused on political, legal and economic risks Gugin has looked at the cultural risks and opportunities associated with the rapid growth in relatively new markets. The impact and influence of cultural norms and values are often severely underestimated until they take an organisation down. In the introduction, we mentioned how much the incident at United Airlines cost. There are many other examples like this and a lot more will come partly because we will have more cultural conflicts and partly because the incidents are good stories for the always hungry media.

New Groups of people will introduce a new culture

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