Iata’s new diversity survey has brought Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in the aviation industry to the forefront, with airlines now being encouraged to be more inclusive in order to achieve sustainable operations for future generations.
“Embracing diversity in the aviation industry is important in order to address challenges, capitalise on opportunities, and ensure the industry remains innovative, efficient and sustainable in a rapidly changing global landscape,” Maryke Pienaar, Marketing Manager at regional airline FlySafair told Tourism Update.
Pienaar added that the aviation industry in South Africa, like many others, was actively working towards greater DE&I.
“There is a growing awareness of the need for inclusivity, and various stakeholders are taking steps to address historical imbalances and promote diversity at all levels. There has been an emphasis on skills development and training programmes to increase the representation of underrepresented groups in various roles within the aviation industry. This includes pilots, technicians, and other professionals.”
Accessing a diverse talent pool
FlySafair has implemented policies and guidelines to ensure equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of race, gender, age, or background.
“Our recruitment processes aim to attract a diverse talent pool, and include identifying and exploring opportunities for employing people with disabilities,” Pienaar said.
The airline sees opportunities to increase DE&I through targeted recruitment strategies, employee engagement initiatives, and continuous training and development programmes.
“FlySafair continues to invest in skills development initiatives with the partnerships of other institutions through the following initiatives to create our labour pool in scarce skills technical divisions: Cadetships; Apprenticeships; Learnerships; Technical Vocational Education and Training; Bursaries and Manager Development,” Pienaar added.
Local airline Lift believes it has been “unbelievably lucky” in gaining access to great talent.
“We have access to a diverse talent pool in so many ways, including age, race, gender and experience. Due to the time and environment at launch, we were able to hire experienced staff from various roles, from all the different airlines that have operated across South Africa. Diversity has therefore been part of our DNA since our launch, giving us a unique edge and it is something we will continue to prioritise as we grow,” said Lift CEO, Jonathan Ayache.
International airline Air France KLM invests in training to ensure that all employees have an equal level of expertise, and to give them the opportunity to develop their skills further.
“It is part of accepting our role in social responsibility; diversity and gender equality are among our top priorities,” said Wilson Tauro, Country Manager for Southern Africa at Air France KLM.
Pienaar believes the aviation industry's specific skill requirements pose challenges in achieving immediate diversity goals, as availability of qualified and experienced professionals within designated groups is scarce.
“One example is a recent statistic of pilots from the Civil Aviation Authority for commercial pilots, where only 14.6% of commercial aeroplane pilots were black (which includes African, Coloured and Indian population groups). Hence the focus on training and development with programmes like the cadetships FlySafair offers,” said Pienaar.
Future of DE&I in aviation
Pienaar noted that the future held promise for FlySafair and the broader aviation industry regarding DE&I.
“We have the potential to develop and nurture a pool of young talent as part of our ongoing transformation initiatives, and we are committed to continue to explore collaborative efforts with the TETA (Transport Education and Training Authority).
“We understand the importance of investing in the next generation of professionals. By partnering with TETA, we provide various learner programmes that not only empowers young individuals but also contributes to our industry's overall transformation and sustainability,” she said.
Tauro noted that the only way forward was to continue increasing DE&I in the industry.
“I know that locally we do have a diverse set of skills from all walks of life and we will continue to follow that path to ensure that we have an organisation that is representative of the society we live in,” he said.