Safety is the first preoccupation of any company involved in passenger’s transportation, would it be by land, air, rail… The more it operates on a domain where the price of any mistake is high, the more the procedures that aims at enforcing passenger’s safety are strict. This is, of course, a very technical field that’s very hard to get for the average passenger that doesn’t know the constraints airlines have to deal with and the required level of precision and excellence that’s needed in such procedures.
To be honnest, when I seat in a plane, these are things I don’t care about at all. The reason is simple : I feel in complete confidence. And I choose the airlines I fly in order to keep this confidence feeling. But, finally, what’s confidence about ?
Las month, I was leaving the lounge at CDG to proceed to the gate when I heard my flight was delayed. A few minutes later, we were told that the plane we were supposed to board on had to be changed, what would cause another delay. I went back to the lounge to pass the time and, one hour later, went back to the gate, sat down on my seat and forgot everything about this change of airplane…until I had to fly back to France.
So I had to fly back back to France exactly one week later. In the lounge I recognized to or three people that were around me during my outward journey flight. While boarding I heard a conversation. “Do you think this is the plane they removed last week ?”. “Was it repaired ?” “Maybe there was an important issue…”. “I hope they did not scamp the work to make it fly quickly”.
I smiled and proceeded to my seat. That’s a very common situation when a technical issue happens on a flight. Some care, some are worried, some are frightened. Confidence….
But where does this confidence comes from ? Maybe because some flight a lot and know how things work ? Because we love aviation and our interest made us try to learn about everything in this industry ? Because I have some friends that are pilots and they played a big part in my “aviation eduction” ?
For that matter, many airlines understand this. Some organize workshops for people who fear fluing, including a session in a flight simulator, to show them what happen during a flight, how the crew handle some situations, make them feel more confident by understanding what is normal and how crewmembers manage issues.
This reminds of a professor when I was a student. While we were talking about quality he once told me : “you can do whatever you want, you won’t reach your objective as long as employees and clients are not aware of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. This is the only way to engage them and use it as a commercial argument”.
So, there would be a difference between how safety is implemented on a technical way and how passengers feel it. A passenger that does not understand how things work, how decisions are made, why a plane is replaced instead of being repaired at the gate etc… won’t value a given company, will be more likely to be stressed, won’t be as cooperative as needed in case of emergency, will spread fear around him even if there’s not tangible reason to do so.
This is something I observed many times in other fields. A business implements efficient innovation or quality systems that deliver good results but that are not valued either by customers or employees that don’t tangle with it and are not pround of what’s being done. It’s a pity to see that the efforts of the company are not recognized, its results ignored and to infer that better results could be achieved if anybody was aware of what’s being done and could be able to value it more.
All these situation have something in common : the opacity of the system. As good as it is, transparency about how its works, its mechanisms, decision making is essential to both passengers and employees who need to see the results and understand how they were attained. We are forced to admit that, for many passengers, the way airlines make decisions, the processus that makes them make arbitrate between two options, are totally obscur, what make them subject to doubt and questions. One only trust systems he knows how they work, decisions which criterias he knows.
So, should everyhting be transparent ? I’d rather sat say non but some recent discussions made me change my mind a little bit. When any organization is doing things well, has the strictest criteria on the market, there is no reason to hide it. Rather show, demonstrate and explain. If not, that means the company is not ready to assume its own compromises. And that’s this opacity in compromises that worries passengers, prevent employees from participating in any alert and decision making system trhat should involve anyone.
As a friend recently told me : “As long as an airline will ground its fleet because of the 10th occurence of a given incident, event minor, and another won’t react until the 30th occurence, I will never feel safe and never trust the second one until I don’t understand the mechanism that makes them act this way. Maybe the first are far too cautious…but as a passenger I need to make my own opinion”.
confiance, entretien, opacité, processus, qualité, sécurité, transparence