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CAPA TV | October 22, 2020

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The Great Debate: Can Aviation Unions Be A Force For Good?

  • On December 11, 2018
All major European carriers have overhauled their cost structures in the last decade or so in the face of liberalisation, the rise of LCCs and increasing competition. Each wave of change has been met with inevitable resistance from traditional labour forces, who have had a comparatively disproportionate impact on the aviation sector compared with other industries, in the process stymieing management restructuring efforts (and massively disrupting everyday operations) for the sake of workers’ rights.
Already fractious relations between airline management and labour associations have reached a tipping point. The international nature of the aviation market has seen some airlines apply more relaxed labour laws from other jurisdictions regardless of where their employees are based. EU based unions for example have called out Ryanair and Norwegian for employing non EU crew on EU registered aircraft and have fought for a ban on what they deem “social dumping”. At the same time, there is also rising demand for a diminishing pool of human resources, as LCCs expand and full service carriers busily set up new subsidiaries. So – while airline managements still need to drive down costs, this is more challenging now in the context of looming pilot shortages. How will the relationship between management and unions evolve under these challenging conditions?
  • Does the aviation industry have enough human resources to service the growth ambitions of the world’s carriers? At what cost?
  • Do unions have the interest of the industry at heart?
  • What constitutes a level aviation labour playing field?
  • Are airlines too focused on a wage race to the bottom for the sake of profit?
  • As essentially inertia-seeking, can unions adapt to the rapid process of change that challenges their managements?

Moderator: Aviation Strategy & Concepts, Managing Director, Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus


  • ALPA, Regulatory Counsel & Senior Attorney, David Semanchik
  • Vereinigung Cockpit e.V., Board Director International Affairs, Robert Spuerk


  • Austrian Aviation Association, Chairman, Peter Malanik
  • CityJet, CEO, Pat Byrne

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