People often ask when they find out the research this site had done is their anyplace I would want to go regarding my Destination carrier as a pilot. I've put a lot of of thought and research into that question, much of it being comprised of what “recipe” or combination of ingredients makes for a good long term airline, and what factors contribute to a good carrier.
I want to talk about what “ingredients” create the best chance of having a successful and productive airline career.
From the research I've done, airlines that have good leadership, good access to capital, and a good culture, produce the most reliable and successful career choices. Upgrade opportunities might be a distant fourth.
Out of those things the number one, most important element in a good airline is, good leadership. I've heard it said by someone I very much respect, that an organization is the lengthened shadow of its leader. Company culture, and often the ability to access good capital are leveraged upon this one fulcrum. It is true that attitude is a reflection of leadership.
The relationship between pilots and corporate leadership I think is best likened to as a marriage. This is a marriage that will be for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until the airline dies or the pilot retires. Whether or not these two parties want to be committed to each other is a function of the state of their relationship. Is their trust, is their unity, is their a willingness to work together.
This trust, unity, and subsequently willingness to work together, is directly influenced by the quality of the leadership team, more than any other factor in the equation. The leadership team being the controlling party, and also the party more easily able to “jump ship” if the going gets rough. However, unlike the management team the pilots, for better or worse are along for the ride, unless they want to start at 20,000$ a year at the bottom of another airline.
If this trust has been compromised, and unity has been destroyed by a management team that has set the tone by hypocrisy, not keeping commitments, or by not being loyal to the spirit of its companies guiding principles, difficulty with the companies culture and its access capital will not be far behind.
On the flip side a company whose competent leadership has nourished this relationship between its employees and company leadership, in leading by example, keeping commitments, and being fiercely loyal to the companies guiding principles, will find there is virtually no challenge that cannot be overcome, nor the smallest opportunity that cannot be turned into gold.
This is a Great YouTube Video of Gordon Bethune who turned around Continental:
Unfortunately because this good will inside the company is not reflected anywhere on Quarterly or Annual statements it often goes overlooked by the investors and sometimes by the management team themselves. This causes many people to think this may not be so important, however from what I have studied regarding a longer term viewpoint, it may the most important element of all.
So when I look at various airlines and look at the quality of their leadership team, it narrows down very quickly to a small list of airlines that I think have made a true effort to incorporate these time honored and time tested principles. SouthWest, Delta, FedEx, possibly Jet Blue (although the Jury is still out) and Sky West INC. This list is not exhaustive and if you have any to add please feel free to comment.
These companies if they continue to hold to their current company culture I think over the long term will be able to handle any challenge or crisis that may arise.
As we start to see many airlines start hiring again this year, and as you carefully weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity, ensure that you choose “wisely”.