Passenger Services

Airline staff travel – an unsung hero to talent acquisition, retention, and cost control


Staff travel is one of the most sought-after perks for prospective and existing employees in the airline industry, a benefit offered across seniority levels that often extends to family and friends. But while staff travel is an attractive and powerful benefit in the compensation package, how can airlines unlock its full value to improve talent acquisition, employee satisfaction, and business predictability?

The truth is that staff travel has traditionally seldom received the attention it deserves as it´s generally considered a cost, making related budget approvals, internal commitment, and policy changes a Herculean task. And this has led to frustration for both airline staff and travel administrators. But times are changing, and a growing number of airlines are beginning to take a closer look at the win-win behind staff travel.

As airlines recently began enjoying recovering passenger volumes, they also saw how staff shortages were threatening the moment they so yearned for. Pandemic-driven furloughs and layoffs resulted in shortages of available and qualified staff, leading to widely reported operational disruptions amid growing demand. The game is on not just to attract staff, but to retain experienced personnel too. And with growing pressure on costs, alternative avenues to secure required staffing levels must be found. 

Expectations have evolved

Rapid digitalization was a trademark of the pandemic that accelerated people´s expectations of smooth and seamless online experiences. And those expectations have spilled over across all facets of people´s lives, including staff travel.

Governance and execution around staff travel has traditionally been clunky, with complex policies driving long-winded processes and approval rounds requiring frequent manual intervention each step of the way, exacerbated by legacy technology. Indeed, staff travel booking and approval processes are often a source of friction for staff and administrators alike, diluting its inherent value as a talent acquisition and retention facilitator.

As people increasingly look for reciprocal value in the relationships they foster with their employers, the staff travel experience is critical for airlines to lure candidates back to the industry. But beyond talent acquisition and retention, staff travel opens further opportunities for airlines to monetize unsold inventory, generate efficiency gains, and reduce costs.

Transforming the landscape

While process and policy simplification offer headway to more efficient and rewarding staff travel experiences, so does the underlying technology that enables them. Airlines typically consider their staff travel programs unique and complex, a key reason why they commonly resort to developing systems in-house. But the nature of these custom-made systems along with the limited resources dedicated to staff travel, quickly make them obsolete, failing to keep up with technological evolutions around them. Over time, they also make it challenging to adapt to changes in travel policies and rewards, and expensive to update, maintain, and deploy new functionalities.

As the industry continues to recover, staff travel policies, procedures, and technology are an additional string to the bow to achieving airline staffing, operational performance, employee satisfaction, and cost control objectives. Discover more details in our "Five features that transform airline staff travel" eBook.

Madhu V Nair is the Head of Product Management & Strategy for iFly Staff - the airline staff travel management product line of IBS Software. He has around two decades of experience in various aspects of IT product development and strategy.  


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