Brilliant: China Southern Makes Cash Payment to Flight Crew For Avoiding Fatal Incident

In the case of air travel it’s expected that flight crew have the same incentive as passengers – to get where they’re going safely. However there can be pressure to stay on time or get out ahead of bad weather, there can be a tendency to misjudge risks, and it’s crucial to make clear there’s a corporate culture of safety.

China Southern is taking that to the next level. They aren’t just saying ‘safety first’ and that employees won’t be punished for raising safety concerns that lead to delays, they are rewarding crew for raising safety issues.

A cash payment to crew for avoiding a potentially fatal incident is a brilliant idea, and one that other businesses could learn from. An investor who take steps to avoid a $100 million loss has created just as much value as one who earns a $100 million profit, yet it’s rare to see risk mitigation rewarded in the same manner. This failure biases employees, who themselves rarely bare the same risk as flight crew in a fatal accident, towards taking risks that may deliver profits but also big losses (profits lead to bonuses, while losses are internalized fully by the business).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Giving people economic incentives to do the right thing is probably the best way to align outcomes. But once you give people an incentive, some unscrupulous people try to game it without actually satisfying the intent.
    Hopefully people won’t start disabling things on the airplane so they can report it and get paid for avoiding a problem.

  2. Giving bonuses for identifying safety issues is good; however I don’t understand the benefit to the airline, crew or passengers from providing a bonus in this situation. Every crew would have done the same thing. Checking the control surfaces before takeoff is part of every checklist for every airplane for every pilot. Does CZ give bonuses for every maintenance issue anyone spots before flight? Bonuses should be for extraordinary efforts or results. The actions of this crew were strictly routine.

  3. I wouldn’t call it brilliant but typically chinese. All of them defrauding clients for money. From Baby Milk to life threatening issues. Shameful people.
    To Maoist Trolls: Don’t send me hatemails. Don’t care !

  4. I suspect that a jammed or non functional aileron on commercial jets is a serious problem but can most likely be dealt with by training and relying on wing spoilers for lateral control. Most pilots with the degree of airmanship, experience and skill required to be an airline Captain would be able to manage the flight . . . Never mind … it did say China.

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