The world airline industry has gone through a roller-coaster ride over the past decade. Among factors contributing are, the growing demand for air travel, the fierce competition for market share between LCCs and flag carriers and the amount of commercial pilots required to meet a surge in demand. The situation is clear; there is a shortage of trained pilots worldwide, so the number of cadets has rocketed, leaving areas like Europe with a surplus.
So, why this contradictory situation? The answer is complex, as there are numerous external factors that affect employable pilots; airlines and regulations, experience requirements, ICAO English Level (+5), age and licence restrictions among others.
Pilots operate in a complex environment where safety is paramount and technical and flying skills are vital but an internal factor often overlooked by airlines and pilots is Pilots’ Personal Branding (PPB) and its influence during hiring processes, job retention and career opportunities. For airlines, the value lies on the impact of PPB as drivers of brand credibility, loyalty, retention rate and profits.
It is concerning the amount of pilots (all ranks) failing before SIM Checks at Interview stages or experienced pilots being terminated or reported on account of CRM issues, lack of reliability and respect, negative references and even low standards of personal appearance
I have summarised from my experience the following key points that would help PPB to stand out.
1. USP (Unique Selling Points)
All brands focus their efforts on their USP, which are the business strengths that generate sales. So, on a personal branding level, a pilot’s brand and what the job represents to human kind evolution should be embedded to inspiration, professionalism, respect, knowledge and human quality that not only represent any airline’s corporate values but also that promotes safety and build trust with people.
All successful brands strive to please their stakeholders; customers, suppliers, investors, employees and others, as these are vital part of success. Therefore, pilots’ stakeholder’s roles would be family first of all, passengers, colleagues, airlines and agencies. Having a strategic and good communication with these parties would strengthen relationships that may lead to family support, quality jobs, positive references, public admiration and more importantly peace of mind, which in other words means safer flights.
3. Investment and Improvements
Commercial brands always seek improvements in areas such as quality, design, innovation, even if investments are required to maintain their market positioning. Pilots should follow a similar approach by improving key skills that would enhance their career prospects: languages, verbal and written communication, management and leadership, business acumen and commercial awareness. Only willingness and motivation are required, as these skills can be improved at little or no cost.
4. Strategic Visibility
We live in an interconnected world, made more transparent by technology. Nowadays; a company, a brand, even a country is exposed to the observation of the world. Solid brands see beyond and not only increase awareness but show their corporate soul and meet brand promise. Similarly, pilots are in the spotlight due to the nature of the job, so, a positive visibility on the internet and social media is key; for instance, LinkedIn. Also, word of mouth publicity is vital, so, having an offensive or rude attitude online does not contribute to positive visibility. The world is about perspective and some jobs may not be interesting for some pilots, but these are blessings and opportunities for others.
5. Quality or Package
People buy brands based on external factors like package or internal such as quality. Hence, a good brand is one that excels in both areas. A successful PPB is also a combination of both; Package, body or appearance; without physical stereotypes but one that reflects discipline, health and safety; essential for aviation. Also, Quality, which is pilots’ soul and kindness towards the world which would guarantee that extraordinary human beings fly the skies.