ILR School

Up In The Air: How Airlines Can Improve Performance by Engaging Their Employees

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[Excerpt] In the chapters that follow, we explore the competitive strategies and employment-relations strategies found in the United States (chapter 2) and in a range of other countries (chapter 3), before and after deregulation. In chapter 4 we analyze recent trends in quality, productivity, and costs, as well as employee outcomes. In chapter 5 we look more closely at selected new-entrant airlines and find a wide range of competitive and employment-relations strategies being used in this segment of the industry. In chapter 6, we examine several legacy airlines and identify the distinct strategies they have adopted to respond to competitive pressures from new-entrant airlines. These chapters each focus on selected U.S. airlines and those based in some other countries. In chapter 7, we summarize the strategies of new-entrant and legacy airlines, and offer lessons about how airlines can and do change their strategies over time in their efforts to compete more effectively. We offer recommendations, using our historical and comparative analyses to discuss whether a path forward can be identified that can provide a better balance in stakeholder outcomes. We end on a positive note, arguing that if the parties learn from their experiences and from each other, in the United States and other countries, there is a path that deals with the pressures building up in the airline industry, offering hope for a better balance between investor, employee, customer, and societal interests. Key questions are whether and from where the leadership will come to get the industry moving down this path or whether the main parties might not take such action before there is a "perfect storm."

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The abstract, table of contents, and first twenty-five pages are published with permission from the Cornell University Press. For ordering information, please visit the Cornell University Press at


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employment relations; labor relations; competition; workforce; human resource management


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