• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

The U.S. airline industry’s five-point weight loss plan for 2022

The most popular New Years resolution is to lose weight. The problem for most people is that even though they are willing to state this goal, they don’t make a practical plan or regularly track their results, and ultimately the resolution ends up being just words. Those who succeed set a specific goal, attach practical and realistic plans for diet and exercise, and regularly monitor their results. What does this have to do with American airlines?

Well the airlines have weight issues too. In fact, five areas may prove fruitful for airlines to adopt a weight loss plan for 2022:

Take the physical weight off each plane

Airplanes get heavier and heavier as they age. Equipment is added, changes are made, and almost every aircraft flying in the United States is heavier today than it was when this aircraft first flew. Although it is not necessary every year, it is a good idea for airlines to perform a weight audit of every aircraft in their fleet. Determine how much weight has been added to the aircraft and what parts can be removed to save weight. Weight increases fuel consumption, so doing this audit is also a way to reduce energy costs.

In my experience, it’s not that hard to gain 100 to 300 pounds from an airplane that has been flying for years. For a widebody aircraft, the weight reduction would likely be even greater. This is roughly the weight of a full passenger and their luggage. If regulations were put in place to force airlines to put a single 300-pound item on every plane, they would howl about the ongoing costs of that extra weight. Go grab that weight now and start saving more fuel!

Eliminate layers of management

While this is a physical burden to take off on an airplane, in an organization, the “weight” comes from having too much redundancy, orphaned departments and small stretches of control. If you look at the flowcharts of any major airline (or any major corporation, for that matter), you’ll likely see things that look strange. There will always be streamlining – we had to keep this person, it was a temporary setup that has not yet been completed, no one else understands this process, etc.

Increasing the average extent of control rewards and empowers those who want to do more and have this ability. Reducing layers – that is, the number of steps between CEO and frontline staff – makes everyone more responsible and creates bigger and more important roles. This cuts down on bureaucracy, speeds up turnaround times, and makes the entire organization more agile. No better time than now to assess this for your organization.

Reduce the number of policies

Like regulations, company policies are continually added but rarely removed. For an airline, the policies around ticket refunds, baggage handling, or other items are incredibly complex and time consuming. This is because as a situation that does not work arises, a new policy is created to resolve the problem.

A policy audit will reveal outright inconsistencies, redundancies, and conflicts in your company’s policies. By reducing the number of policies, no control should be lost and no new empowerment should be given, even though these goals in themselves might be laudable goals. Most of the time this review will surprise a lot and make some people laugh, but more importantly by cleaning up your policies and having only the policies you really need will make things easier for employees and customers. In doing so, you can probably rewrite a lot of strategies for clarity.

Without sacrificing safety, lose the safety nets

All organizations, including airlines, have many safety nets built into their structure. These are not always obvious. You can find them by looking at how different departments have overlapping responsibilities, and the above policy point may reveal some of them as well. Some redundancy is good, of course, and some organizational safety nets are protective and necessary. But many are just an added burden and bog down the organization the same way layers and politicians do. Consider whether you need everyone to do all of the things they’re supposed to be doing. By doing this, you will find out where the excess is and dispose of it if it is wasted, but protect it when it is important.

Follow rule 15B

When Gordon Bethune was CEO of Continental Airlines, he used a simple rule that I remember as rule 15B. It is possible that Gordon called it the 13D rule, or named it after another airplane seat. The rule is simple: if you want to spend the money on something, go on any plane and ask the customer at 15B if they think it’s a good idea. If they agree, then build your case to get the money approved. If they don’t, rethink your idea.

The beauty of this rule is its simplicity. Gordon recognized that whatever the airline does has to be good for the customer. Customers want to be safe, they want better service, they want lower rates, and more, so there are many ideas that customers will support. But do clients want shiny new offices for executives? Marble floors in the airport hall? Probably not, so this may not be where the airline should be focusing its limited capital. Like all weight loss plans, the key is to change your habits so that you don’t just put the weight back on. Adopting Rule 15B is a great way to ensure long-term corporate weight management.