The Chief Strategy Officer of a global airline holding company talks about the challenges faced by air travelers with disabilities and how to address them. In the news, the DOT is considering increased passenger compensation for delays, a private company offers luxury terminal services, the outlook for the air traffic controller shortage looks bleak, the NTSB finds that posting to social media was the probable cause of a fatal plane crash, and a small Hawaiian airline plans to add electric ground effect “seagliders” to its fleet.
Michael Swiatek is the Chief Strategy Officer of ABRA Group, a global airline holding company that owns Avianca, the largest airline in Colombia, and GOL Airlines, which is the largest airline in Brazil.
Mike is on a mission to improve the experience for air travelers with disabilities: making it more affordable, easier, and with better service. Being legally blind, Mike has had unique life experiences that have impacted his outlook and career journey.
Mike describes the four primary disability categories: visual, hearing, mobility, and neurodiversity. He explains how disability pain points were identified by examining the Avianca customer journey map. Such points can be addressed in five possible ways: awareness, training, process change, digital technology, and hardware.
As a blind person, Mike developed several “superpowers” that have benefitted his life, both professionally and otherwise. We learn about those and consider related topics, like how to best interact with people with disabilities.
Mike was formerly the Chief Strategy and Planning Officer at Avianca, where he transformed the airline’s positioning through alliances, network expansion, and inclusivity initiatives. He’s held senior roles at a number of other airlines, including IndiGo Airlines and Qatar Airways.
United Airlines holding company CEO Scott Kirby said that a plan being considered by the Transportation Department could cost the industry “a god-awful amount of money.” The DOT is considering increasing payments to passengers for disruptions under airlines’ control, such as for hotels, transportation, meals, and re-booking. Kirby said, “We should never risk changing the safety culture in aviation. I do not want a pilot, I do not want a mechanic, thinking about the extra cost of delay when they’re thinking about a decision.”
Private Suite, or PS as it is now known, operates from private terminals at Los Angeles International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, away from the public terminals at those airports. PS calls its service “a back door to your commercial aircraft, private TSA and Customs clearance, luxury spaces, and white-glove service before and after your flight.” Customers can get private suites with plush furniture, snacks, and beverages. PS offers fast, private TSA screening and chauffeured travel directly to the aircraft door.
Airline executives raise alarm that air traffic controller shortage will continue disrupting flights for years
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the air traffic controller shortage “…is going to be a journey, especially when you factor in attrition, to get to levels we want to see. I think it’ll be a while before we’re at levels we’d like to see.” Across the U.S., air traffic controller levels are at about 81 percent of the need. That’s about 3,000 controllers short. In the New York market, staffing is only 54 percent of what is needed. Industry executives are looking at this as a 5-year problem.
“Distracted piloting” during a low-level pipeline patrol flight was the probable cause of the Cessna 182 striking a radio tower guy wire, killing the pilot.
Mokulele Airlines may add electric REGENT seagliders to its fleet, which fly port-to-port about 60 feet over the water. The airline currently serves residents of Molokai and Lanai. Mokulele’s parent company is Southern Airways, which was acquired by Surf Air Mobility in July 2023. Surf Air is a Los Angeles-based electric air travel company and traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Journey Is The Reward podcast, Episode 41 Stuttering… A Live Show!
Hosts this Episode
Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof.