Airlines are finally rebounding from a crisis that spawned $200 billion in losses across the industry over the last couple of years. With recovery underway, leadership teams are switching gears from fighting for survival to ramping up their operational capacity. But as the industry rejoices about the upward trajectory, several operational and talent challenges remain against a backdrop of global uncertainty.
Egon Zehnder held several discussions with airline executives to understand how they’ve navigated this landscape so far, the lessons learned, and trends that lie ahead. An important takeaway: The true “winners” are the nimble airlines that find balance between short-term agility and efficiency while simultaneously focusing on longer-term customer needs. As travel restrictions loosen and travel ramps up, now is the time to invest in customer-centric capabilities, operations, and a renewed look at leadership.
Drawing from the work we do in the space and from executives’ insights, this series examines the three key areas that will fundamentally shape the future of airlines and how leaders (including the board, the CEO, and the executive team) can adapt to thrive as they go from recovery to growth.
Adaptability is Key to Succeed
Before we dive into the major trends shaping the industry, there’s an underlying leadership imperative to succeed in today’s landscape: the capacity to adapt in face of structural changes in customer needs and expectations; and the impact of further industry consolidation resulted from significant differences in unit cost, operational flexibility, and commercial models among the various players.
Responding to these evolving and unexpected challenges will require from boards and CEOs a culture of agility and a new talent strategy to identify leaders with potential to thrive and adapt when faced with these issues. As one airline CEO said, “This crisis has significantly unveiled who in my senior management team strikes me as a decision-maker and adaptable manager and who just cannot adjust to the immediate requirements.”
These efforts will entail a lot of experimentation with operating models and an intentional effort from senior management to instill a sense of purpose across the organization for positive outcomes. “I became somewhat overwhelmed by this crisis,” one airline CEO told us. “There are so many things to watch and opportunities to do things differently in the future. I have already ramped up a task force who is rethinking our company from scratch. There will be no exceptions: Our full business strategy is under review.”
The services industry has thrived by enabling the organizations it serves to be faster, cheaper, and better. Keeping pace with—and getting ahead of—new business… Read more
From companies announcing carbon emissions reductions, to ongoing media coverage of environmental and social issues, awareness has never been greater. But is enough action… Read more
Egon Zehnder surveyed 235 Chief Supply Chain Officers across 23 countries to see what it takes to succeed in the role and where the… Read more
You are switching to an alternate language version of the Egon Zehnder website. The page you are currently on does not have a translated version. If you continue, you will be taken to the alternate language home page.Continue to the website