Reply To: Airline and Airport Staff Attitudes

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I’ve been reading quote a few posts recently which, either directly or indirectly, touch on the subject of staff attitudes at airports and with airlines themselves. Several of these have suggested ‘national or regional characteristics’ (eg re Kuwait Airlines or the Middle East, which have been recent subjects) and these comments have subsequently been translated by other postees as being unacceptable or even covertly racist.

One of my professional fields is organisational change management. I’ve done a lot of psychology over the years, although I’m neither a psychologist nor a sociologist (I’m actually originally a town planner). However, I have a theory which may be of interest.

It is a fact that within any nation, there are dominant national characteristics which can reflect themselves in behaviour. These characteristics and created by (amongst other things) cultural values, norms of behaviour, beliefs, etc. Although there are always exceptions and it is very dangerous indeed to generalise, people will usually and in general, comply to some extent in their behaviour with these national or regional norms.

My theory is simple. In the travel and hospitality industry, particularly international airline transport, bahaviours have to be consistent across the world if carriers are to attract and retain custom in a globalised marketplace. This means that individuals and carriers from every country have to modify their behaviour to a greater or lesser extent, so it matches an international standard. This may be more difficult for those countries where the GENERAL (I stress that word) cultural norms are furthest from that standard. This comment is not at all intended to be perjorative, I must add.

The result of this is that in such cases, individuals are to some extent acting out of natural character when they are doing their day job, because they have to meet that international ‘common denominator’ of behaviour. This must be extremely stressful at times, almost like being on stage every shift. Logically, if what I suggest is at all true, there will be times when it is harder for them to maintain their behavioural facade (eg when they’ve had a hard day through delays, or when dealing with particularly difficult pax). This may explain why some airlines are generally ‘better’, because they come from countries where the natural cultural and behavioural norms are closest to the ‘international standard.’

Just an idea.

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