Business aviation provides a catalyst for trade and investment around Europe, connecting 1 million passengers across the continent annually. Moreover, it’s a dynamic sector responsible for generating substantial and sustainable employment, with an average of 347,000 European jobs directly and indirectly dependent on the industry.
While big Business aviation airports like Paris le Bourget and Berlin’s Schönefeld are essential in connecting key European regions, driving strong economic values on a large scale, smaller ones such as Ljubljana Airport have a huge impact on local communities by connecting regions of different socio-economic status.
We asked Brigita Zorec, Head of Corporate Communications at Fraport Slovenia, to share her perspective on how Ljubljana Airport contributes to local economic growth, and sustainable employment.
Driving economic development through connectivity
Business aviation delivers economic development to places otherwise inaccessible, and drives investment and business across the continent by connecting distant and remote regions. Ljubljana Airport is the main international airport in Slovenia, with approximately 98% of the country’s air traffic passing through. Serving a catchment area of 4 million, the airport connects the Balkan region with Western and Central Europe.
“We play an important role for the national economy and regional mobility,” Brigita explains. “We maybe don’t have great economic impact in European terms, but we for sure have a great impact on this catchment area.”
Only recently, the airport kept business across Europe going when many commercial air routes became less accessible. As Brigita explains, “While air traffic stopped due to Covid-19, business aviation was saving those people who really had to travel. People who have to travel, who have their business needs, they use Business aviation now more than they did before.”
Connecting three times more destinations than scheduled airlines, generating nearly €90 billion, Business aviation’s connectivity is a significant economic driver, promoting business and investment globally and locally.
Train and nurture: investing in talent and skills
Business aviation offers high-skilled and high-value employment opportunities, which benefits local communities near airports. Ljubljana Airport is no different, as Brigita explains: “Nearly 70% of our employees are from neighbouring local communities. We are definitely an important pillar for them. Not just for direct employment, but also employment in companies and services that are related.”
However, attracting skilled workers isn’t enough, investing in their talent is essential to maintain a high retention rate, something Ljubljana Airport understands very well. “An airport is a place where continuous upgrading of knowledge and competencies is needed,” Brigita explains.
The airport annually prepares educational plans for internal and external trainings, not just to drive competitiveness in the market and retain operating licenses, but also to support employee development. “We always provide something extra, new skills, new know-how for our employees,” Brigita says. “We want to be a good and reliable employer. Investing in people is something that has great importance for us.”
To support sustainable employment, it’s important for employees to feel and qualified and employable. Brigita states that the effort the airport put into employees is more than worth it: “The loyalty among our people is really high. People rarely leave our company, even though the basic salary perhaps isn’t as high as at some other companies in aviation.”
Job quality and work environment are crucial to retain staff. Ljubljana Airport strives to provide its workers with good working conditions and continuous training. They want to be a role model for their workforce: “Without employees we can’t make progress,” Brigita explains. “Their performance is our performance.”
Having employees identify with, feel involved in, and attached to their organisation – also known as affective commitment – inspires loyalty and high-quality performances. Employees who feel affectively committed, positively impact corporate performance. In other words, a guaranteed return on investment.
Family time: supporting a healthy work-life balance
Business aviation is a fast-moving world, operating at all hours of the day and night, especially for schedulers and dispatchers, who don’t have protective measures in place like pilots. Working irregular schedules while juggling a family life doesn’t just impact private lives – 38% of the female workforce in the aviation industry has considered quitting due to an inconsistent work-life-balance – it can also have serious safety consequences when exhaustion and potential burn-out comes into play.
Ljubljana Airport has introduced several initiatives to guarantee a safe workspace and proper work-life balance for its staff in a fast-paced and high-stress working environment. The effort has earned them a full Family-Friendly certification in 2016, as well as the Respected Employer Award four times. Employees can work part-time for a certain period during the year, even outside the statutory legitimate period, and flexible working times are permitted when children are starting new school trajectories. Outside of the working hours, the airport organises day care and camps during employees’ holidays, and several family events throughout the year.
“It’s important to help where we can, so they can properly balance their professional and private lives,” Brigita explains. “We try to create a working space where employees feel accepted, and a place where you’d like to be.”
Collaborating towards a sustainable future for Business aviation
Despite setbacks in the industry due to Covid-19, Brigita remains positive about the future of Business aviation and its economic value. The airport recently even started an extension of its passenger terminal. As Brigita puts it: “We didn’t stop investing in motorisation and airport infrastructure. We strongly believe that traffic will continue.”
Still, there’s room for improvement, and changes will need to be implemented to continue Business aviation’s strong economic impact and sustained employment in the future, especially now that air traffic isn’t expected to resume to normal until 2024. Brigita believes that a unified policy among Business aviation operators across Europe – and beyond – is crucial.
“There will be a very constructive cooperation needed among all industry stakeholders to create political will to help Business aviation recover as soon as possible,” she explains.
Brigita emphasizes the importance of implementing measures that will give employees confidence that they are operating in a safe and healthy environment. She concludes: “Air travel will continue to be at the centre of our social and economic life, bringing people together. It will remain the driving force behind global development and technological innovation, but we will have to achieve new solutions to build this reality in a more sustainable and responsible manner.”
The United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals came to life with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These goals were established as the guidelines for countries and companies to work towards making the world a more peaceful and prosperous place. Goals not only focus on humanitarian causes such as reducing inequality, ending poverty, and improving education, but also encouraging economic growth and stimulating climate action.
Do you have an example of how a company in the business aviation sector is aligned with these goals? Don’t hesitate to reach out!