June 5 2023  |  Events

Aircraft Interiors Expo spotlights diversity in aviation

By Reedah Hayder

The Diversity in Aviation report suggests that 56 percent of passengers with disabilities find flying and using airports difficult

Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) is set to shine a spotlight on the aviation industry’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DE&I) through its latest report, Diversity in Aviation.

The Expo, scheduled to take place in Hamburg from June 6 to 8, has released a comprehensive report that celebrates the industry’s progress and highlights key sociopolitical topics faced by the sector.

The Diversity in Aviation report features insights from prominent airlines and suppliers, including JetBlue, United Airlines, British Airways, Airbus, and Virgin Atlantic. With a focus on disability, female leadership, race and ethnicity, self-expression, and the business case for diversity, the report delves into the most pressing issues in the industry today.

“The aviation industry is one of the most globalized, international industries, and it’s vital that it is reflective of the modern world,” said Polly Magraw, Event Director, AIX, in a May 15 press release. “Ahead of this year’s AIX event, where a large number of suppliers will be showcasing solutions to make the cabin more inclusive, this report takes a broad look at the challenges the industry has faced and what it has achieved already. We hope that the report can act as the keystone on which the industry can continue to work towards creating a fully diverse, inclusive workforce with equal opportunities for all.”

One of the major challenges addressed in the report is the issue of accessibility in the commercial airline sector. According to the report, over half (56 percent) of passengers with disabilities find flying and using airports difficult. While airlines are investing heavily in making air travel more accessible, the report emphasizes that there is still work to be done to ensure full inclusion and accessibility. Christopher Wood MBE, a disability lobbyist and founder of Flying Disabled, suggests that air travel is lagging behind other forms of transport in terms of accessibility and inclusion.

The report also explores gender equality and female leadership, building upon AIX’s Women in Aviation campaign. A poll cited in the report reveals that 63 percent of women are deterred from pursuing a career as a professional airline pilot due to reasons such as the lack of visible role models and the perception of it being a “man’s job.” The report concludes that the industry must improve the visibility of female leaders and promote gender equality to bring about wider cultural change.

The report also examines how airlines worldwide are striving to create racially diverse and inclusive cultures. It highlights British Airways’ all-Black cabin crew operating a flight for the first time and mentions the airline’s inclusion and diversity programs, as well as partnerships with organizations like Fantasy Wings, aimed at breaking down barriers and providing equal opportunities for underrepresented groups in the aviation industry.

Self-expression within the cabin is another prominent topic covered in the report. Traditionally known for its strict dress codes, the aviation industry is now exploring ways to allow cabin and ground crew to freely express their identities. Virgin Atlantic, for instance, is leading the way in this space, acknowledging that passenger-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be excluded from expressing themselves through tattoos. The chapter also highlights other airlines’ policies that contribute to transforming the sector.

Finally, the report evaluates the business case for diversity, emphasizing how it can enhance customer engagement, marketplace reputation, talent acquisition, and profitability. Drawing on research from McKinsey & Co., the report reveals that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25 percent more likely to achieve above-average profitability. It underscores the importance for airlines to implement effective D&I strategies that drive tangible value and performance.

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