Safety Culture and Profit: Aviation's Continuing Organizational Dilemma

Essay by robdado2University, Master'sA+, February 2005

download word file, 16 pages 4.6

Safety Culture and Profit: Aviation's Continuing Organizational Dilemma


The safety vs. profit organizational dilemma has been a prominent trademark of the airline industry since its inception. This paper critically analyzes and compares two sets of management styles; one that propagates a pathogenic organizational and safety culture and another that exemplifies the proper balance of safety and profit while maintaining a high level of job satisfaction for its employees. Case examples are used to illustrate the consequential effects of both latent and overt management errors. A paradigm shift has begun to occur where the blame for accident causation is no longer pointing the guilt finger solely on the pilots; instead, the organizational culture itself is being defined as contributory to many of these accidents.


Aviation has had a longstanding dilemma when the issues of safety and profit are concerned. Theoretically there should be a positive correlation between the two (a safe airline should be a profitable airline and a profitable airline should be a safe airline).

However, as the media have pointed out time and time again, this is not always the case. This begs to ask a few critical questions: How could a safe airline not be profitable? And how could an airline that is turning a good profit (which is a tough challenge in and of itself these days) not possibly be safe? Some of the answers may be fairly obvious while others may not. This paper will look at some of the organizational influences that propagate the profit vs. safety dilemma that is not about to disappear anytime soon.

Since the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) of 1978, airlines have been free to compete on fares and route structures. Before that time the government controlled fares and routes and airlines had a tough time making significant changes...