Travel

Culture of Authority in Asian Airlines

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  • Jul 11th, 2019 2:52 pm
[OP]
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Oct 23, 2017
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Culture of Authority in Asian Airlines

"This is your Captain speaking . . let's all have a snort to take the tedium out of this long flight . . ."

I found the following article rather disturbing: It describes the case of a cabin crew member on Korea Air who refused to serve alcohol to the Captain of a plane who wanted a drink while they were in the air. The crew member was demoted.

http://m.koreatimes.co.kr/pages/article ... Idx=271980

Isn't this an example of the "authority culture" that caused a number of crashes with certain airlines? I.e. where junior crew members could not override bad decisions made by a superior? I thought Korean Air had dealt with that.
8 replies
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Sep 23, 2007
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I read a book. Can't recall the name of the book but it was very interesting. Some researcher coined a term called respect for authority. In some cultures, respecting authorities and elders is deeply ingrained into the culture. Koreans rank #2. The book was trying to explain why Korean Air had multiple plane crashes. After some consulting work, it was discovered that respect for authority played a key role to those crashes. The person in high authority made certain decisions and those below didn't speak against it. A series of minor judgement and communication errors compounded the issue. By the time the mistakes were notably fatal, it was already too late.

As someone who have been close to Korean culture, I can attest to this. There are a whole range of pros and cons. In social interactions, it's quite common for people to state their age upfront. "Elders" are generally expected to pay for things and take care of the juniors. The whole language has a built in system of honorifics related to age and status. There's definitely a lot of room for abuse in the work place. Like...juniors would be fetching coffee instead of doing actual work. I read another statistic somewhere that Korean labour force is among the lowest in productivity (because it is measured as hours worked vs GDP or something). Koreans work long hours in general because they have unspoken cultural rules like: you can't leave office before your boss. Workers are generally encouraged to follow the status quo rather than be creative and speak up.

Korean Air may have dealt with the issue with consulting work. But that was focused on preventing crashes. No consulting work will be able to change the whole Korean culture that is so deeply ingrained into people's heads.
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Apr 19, 2017
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Notice hold the oldest cultures, Chinese and Indian, respect authority while younger ones dont.
Does respect ensure your survival...
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It's not just Asian culture, there are plenty in Western countries where the "god" complex still exists. Can find plenty of examples, especially in the Professions, like Doctors ignoring nurses' concerns raised, senior lawyers treating their juniors, especially female ones as their "gophers", ...
[OP]
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WetCoastGuy wrote: It's not just Asian culture, there are plenty in Western countries where the "god" complex still exists. Can find plenty of examples, especially in the Professions, like Doctors ignoring nurses' concerns raised, senior lawyers treating their juniors, especially female ones as their "gophers", ...
But at least the senior lawyer is not flying the airplane. And I can get a second doctor opinion.
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Dealmaker1945 wrote: And I can get a second doctor opinion.
Not necessarily in the operating room where the Doctor has sole authority over medical decisions.
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Jul 30, 2015
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It’s true that culture in Asian airlines is very different from western airlines. Many of my colleagues flew for major Asian airlines in the past(they left because of that) and they would all agree that the captain is shown as ‘’the one and only’’. This kind of behavior have changed the outcome of a lot of situations and caused incidents/accidents in the past. It happened in North America as well but we have all moved away from it today(or almost). In fact, those captains are the most dangerous to the safe operation the flight.

Of course captain remains in charge, but it is really important that the whole crew feel united and essential for the safe operation of the flight. Sadly this doesnt happen very often at Asian airlines. This way if something suspicious happen or if anyone sees something abnormal, they will speak up to the captain and/or first officer. They wont be shy or afraid to do it. Nobody is perfect and nobody knows everything.

God I love working at my airline.. none of that bullsh*t !
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Sep 16, 2004
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Regardless of culture, people gravitate towards authority rolls so they can abuse it and or not be the sub that gets dominated by those in authority.
The Ego can only be repressed, otherwise it must either be destroyed or given full reign.
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Jun 15, 2015
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Latitude57 wrote: It’s true that culture in Asian airlines is very different from western airlines. Many of my colleagues flew for major Asian airlines in the past(they left because of that) and they would all agree that the captain is shown as ‘’the one and only’’. This kind of behavior have changed the outcome of a lot of situations and caused incidents/accidents in the past. It happened in North America as well but we have all moved away from it today(or almost). In fact, those captains are the most dangerous to the safe operation the flight.

Of course captain remains in charge, but it is really important that the whole crew feel united and essential for the safe operation of the flight. Sadly this doesnt happen very often at Asian airlines. This way if something suspicious happen or if anyone sees something abnormal, they will speak up to the captain and/or first officer. They wont be shy or afraid to do it. Nobody is perfect and nobody knows everything.

God I love working at my airline.. none of that bullsh*t !
Having worked as cabin crew there were many captains who were notorious for the “authoritative” behaviour. I’ve witnessed FA’s cry because Captain God wanted their tea (bag removed) and she left the bag in (just an example of really dumb stuff).

I believe one of the worst crashes in aviation history (Panam & KLM collision in Tenerife was due to the fact the first officer was afraid to speak up that they took off without ATC clearance?). I’ve seen them air that episode of Mayday a few times and that’s a prime example.

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