From questions of personal and corporate responsibility to impacts on public well-being, ethical concerns are vital in aviation. This is a complex and highly regulated industry, and aviation managers are responsible for a wide range of ethical considerations.
Industry leaders have plenty of formal guidance, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s standards regarding the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Academy of Engineering’s ethical theories related to aviation and the National Business Aviation Association’s ethical aviation business standards.
In addition, gaining knowledge in ethical reasoning at the university level has become increasingly important, particularly for potential managers. For example, the Henderson State University (HSU) online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Aviation Management program offers a Managerial Leadership and Ethics course that introduces students to different leadership styles and how ethics functions in management.
In this exploration of aviation management ethics, we present some of the most important ethical challenges faced by leaders in the industry today.
Balancing Airline Passenger Experiences With Staffing, Ticketing and Capacity Considerations
Airlines are constantly balancing the need to provide passengers with a satisfying experience with the need to be profitable. This can be challenging, as the two goals are often at odds.
Airlines may overbook flights to maximize revenue and occupancy, which often leads to passengers being bumped from flights. Airlines must also balance having enough staff to handle passenger needs with the need to avoid paying employees who are not working.
Airlines can balance these needs by being transparent about their policies and procedures. Industry professionals should also work with passengers to resolve problems. For example, airlines should inform passengers of their overbooking policy and the compensation they will receive if bumped from a flight. They should also provide passengers with information about their tarmac delay policy and the steps that they take to minimize the related inconveniences.
Anticipatory Technology Ethics in Managing Aircraft Accidents
Anticipatory technology ethics (ATE) is a framework for anticipating the potential ethical implications of emerging technologies before they are widely deployed. ATE can be used to identify and mitigate potential risks associated with new technologies, including aircraft.
The recent Boeing 737 MAX accidents demonstrate the importance of ATE in managing aircraft accidents. ATE could have been used to anticipate the potential for problems with the MCAS system and the need for additional pilot training. ATE helps ensure that such systems function correctly and human agents have sufficient knowledge of how automation operates.
By anticipating and mitigating the potential risks associated with new aircraft technologies, ATE can prevent aircraft accidents from happening in the first place.
Employee Ethical Conduct
Aviation managers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees engage in ethical conduct. This includes prohibiting employees from holding financial interests that conflict with their job duties, accepting gifts from sources seeking official action or engaging in other activities that could compromise their impartiality.
To manage employee ethical conduct, aviation managers can develop and implement a code of ethics, provide training on ethics, monitor employee conduct and discipline employees for ethical violations. A code of ethics clearly defines the expected standards of conduct for all employees and includes a process for reporting and investigating ethical violations. Training helps set ethical standards and expectations for employees.
Monitoring employee conduct for signs of unethical behavior helps to prevent ethical violations, and disciplining employees for ethical violations sends a message that unethical behavior will not be tolerated.
Employee Stress Levels
Aviation managers play a vital role in promoting a safe and ethical work environment, which includes managing employee stress levels. They can do this by identifying and addressing the sources of stress, providing employees with support and resources, empowering employees to take control of their work-life balance, setting realistic expectations, providing clear feedback and modeling healthy behavior.
By taking these steps, aviation managers can help to create a workplace where employees feel supported and empowered.
Maintaining Business Records
Aviation organizations have a responsibility to maintain ethical business records that are complete, accurate, compliant with all applicable laws and regulations and retained for the required period. These records should be protected from unauthorized access and destruction and disposed of in a compliant manner. Organizations can maintain ethical business records by developing and implementing a written recordkeeping policy, training employees on the policy and regularly reviewing and auditing business records.
Legal and Regulatory Compliance
Business aviation professionals are ethically obligated to comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including those related to bribery, corruption and gratuities. This behavior helps to ensure the safety and security of the industry, as well as to protect consumers and employees.
Organizations can maintain legal compliance by familiarizing themselves with the applicable rules, developing and implementing a compliance program, training employees on the program and regularly monitoring and reviewing it.
Looking Ahead: Managing the Ethics of Self-Flying Aircraft
It will not be long before self-flying aircraft technology takes off. To manage the ethical aspects of self-flying aircraft, the industry will need to develop ethical guidelines for their operation, systems for human operators to override their decisions and methods to test and evaluate their ethical performance.
Ethical guidelines should align with common ethical principles, such as prioritizing passenger safety and respecting individual autonomy. Systems should allow human operators to override the aircraft’s computer system in case of unethical decisions or uncertainty. Finally, testing and evaluation systems should ensure that self-flying aircraft are programmed to make ethical decisions in a variety of situations.
Prepare to Set and Maintain the Highest Ethical Standards in Aviation Leadership
HSU’s online MBA in Aviation Management program prepares graduates to become ethical leaders in the aviation industry by emphasizing the importance of ethical decision-making and providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the complex ethical challenges faced by aviation managers today.
If you believe in the importance of ethical business leadership in this industry, this program will prepare you to propel your career to lofty heights as you lead with integrity.