A system under strain – “new business models” in aviation

Can too much ‘competition’ and ‘innovation’ be bad? Don’t let the vocabulary confuse you: in the case of European aviation, they can.

But to find a conclusive answer to this question, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has set up a Working Group (WG) looking deeper at the safety implications of the so-called “new business models” in Europe. The very fact that this Working Group had been established is a way of pointing at the obvious – new trends are challenging the systems’ safety and sustainability.

Examples of such trends are new – and often complex and opaque – ways of setting up business and flight operations within Europe’s single market, new forms of employment and contractual arrangements for pilots and cabin crew. These dynamics can have direct repercussions for the safety performance of individual operators, individual regions/countries, and Europe’s aviation system as a whole, let alone for the day-to-day safety decisions.

After only a few months of work and 3 meetings, a first report of the Working Group has been accomplished. As part of this Working Group, ECA has published its comments to the report, welcoming the consensus recommendations. Continuing the work of the WG and involving stakeholders – in particular air crew representatives – will be necessary to ensure that complex business set-ups and atypical employment forms do not undermine aviation safety in Europe. This report does not yet hold answers or definitive solutions but it is a very-welcome first step to take stock of the challenges in the industry. And they seem to go far beyond next year’s profits.