Running an airline is a complex operation. It is one of the industry that is capital, labor and technology intensive, all encompassed within a single organisation. The high capital and technology investments are due the aircrafts requirements. On top of that, as it is a service industry, it is also highly labor intensive, mainly due to the direct customers services the airlines have provide to the individual customers. These factors have impacts on the types of jobs required to run the airline.
The types of jobs can be divided into the following groups:
1. Aircraft Related.
a. Maintenance of the aircrafts – This is an engineering types of work. A large number of staff are required to plan, organize and do the actual maintenance on the aircrafts and the related components. As the safety of the aircraft and the passengers are at stake, the airlines will put a high priority to the maintenance works.
The resources, the manpower, the spares and the available facilities have to planned years in advance. The quality of the works and the processes are monitored by the Quality Assurance staffs.
b. Flying Operation – This is where the pilots are positioned. The Flying Operation section is much more than just flying the aircraft. It include the whole set up and system to ensure that the aircraft will fly from point A to B safely and economically.
The main players will be the pilots, but you also require other types of jobs to plan for the flights, get the data for the routes and the destinations and file the flight plans to the authority. The flight clearance have to be obtained from all the countries airspace and the destinations. Then there is the tasks to pay the bills of the services from the ATC (Air Traffic Controller), the navigation aids on routes and weather information.
On some airlines, the managing and buying of the oils and fuel is under the Flying Operation, while in others, it is with Finance Department. Although the manpower needed to manage the fuel purchases is small, the monetary value is huge. It ca be the biggest expenditure for the airline, bigger than the total staff cost.
2. Customers related
a. Catering – This the kitchen of the airline and it can be a very big establishment. As a rule, it needs to comply to the health and legal requirements. Some airlines choose to outsource the procurement of the foods.
b. Customers Demand Research – The group will determine the markets and the markets’ needs. For example, for the Transatlantic segment, it is forecasted to have 200 million students travelling in 2011, and the characteristic of this students travelers are: They are price sensitive, seasonal travelers and less sensitive to the quality of in-flight services.
c. Customers Services – Traditionally the responsibilities are divided into 3 groups:
i. Sale of the tickets – Handle and managed by the Sale Personnel and Sale Group.
ii. After the sale but prior boarding the aircraft – handled by the Traffic Services (known as Ground Services). This group also handle passengers after a flight.
iii. Cabin crews- The crews handle the passengers while they are in the aircrafts, both on ground as well as in flight.
The customers’ services group is the largest in term of manpower, likely to be about half of the total work force of an airline
3. Business Support
a. Finance and accounting. I put it as business support as they are NOT directly involved in the transportation of the passengers. Some airlines consider them the core and the operation departments as the support to make money for the airlines.
The Finance Department will be concerned on the sources and application of funds. They also handle the cash. Airlines are known to be cash rich and it will a waste to have billions of dollar sitting idle in the bank
b. Corporate Service – This is where the HR personnel, the Legal personnel and Central Purchasing groups. You can have a group of staff who specialize to manage projects.
c. Insurance and Medical – Airlines spend a lot of money on the insurance of the aircrafts, passengers and properties. The medical cost comes up to multi-million dollars, as the pilots and cabin crews have to undergo annual medical test to check for the health.
4. ICT – IT and Communication is the lifeblood of an airline. Most of the transactions and the operations are using ICT. A failure in the system will cause flight delays and prevent the airline from operating.
The structure of an airline varies between airlines and is continuously changing according to the corporate strategy. However, due to the nature of airlines business, it will be capital, labor and technology intensive.