Lufthansa CEO Jens Ritter made headlines this week after he was snapped onboard a Lufthansa flight heading to Riyadh and Bahrain while serving as an additional crew member.
He came under criticism as members of the public decried the move as a PR stunt, however he is not the first executive to try and gain a fresh perspective on the problems being faced by an organisation by getting his hands dirty.
And, while any company of Lufthansa’s size will have challenges across departments, senior executives can only gain by connecting with staff further down the organisational chain, and understanding what both customer and staff members experience in their day-to-day dealings with the company.
Taking to his LinkedIn network, Mr Ritter explained that he never had the opportunity to work as part of cabin crew with the company. In his earlier years with the German flag carrier, Mr Ritter served as a pilot, among several other roles.
While assisting the cabin crew, Mr Ritter catered to passenger needs. He first served the business class passengers on the way to Riyadh, then shifted to economy during the night return to Frankfurt.
Writing to his social network, Mr Ritters described the experience as interesting and challenging:
“I was amazed by how much there is to organise, especially if something doesn’t go as planned – for example the meals offered on the menu cards were not exactly the meals loaded on board.
“It was so interesting to address the guests’ wishes individually, to deal with the different energy everyone has.
“I used to fly as a pilot and so I thought I knew about the challenges a flight during the night entails. But to be present and attentive and charming – when the biological clock just tells you to sleep – was something entirely different. The crew was terrific and welcomed me into their team right away.”
Mr Ritters said “he enjoyed every moment” and was “astonished” by how much he learned in the few hours.
“Deciding things in the office will be different after really feeling the decisions on board. Thank you to the amazing crew, the lovely guests and everyone involved for making this experience possible!”
Earlier this summer, KLM CEO Marjan Rintel was also snapped serving passengers on a flight between Los Angeles and Amsterdam, which was equally met with a mixed response from the public.
The aviation industry in general has received some harsh criticism from customers over the past two years. Since the industry re-commenced following the pandemic, airlines have been dogged by fuel price hikes to staggering degrees, severe staff shortages that disrupted flight schedules, extreme weather events that caused further disruptions and it also faced supply chain issues which impacted airlines’ ability to carry out maintenance and repairs on aircraft.
And, while many believe that both the Lufthansa and KLM bosses should concentrate on more serious issues being faced by the companies, others supported the idea that good leaders engage with the rest of the company and get their hands dirty.
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Matthew Borg also resigned from his position as Non-Executive Director of the company.