31st October 2023

Financial incentives being paid to close doors on time

Initial Report

At [Company] we have had a critical time path outlining where we should be and when, from arriving at security to arriving at the aircraft with the aim to be doors closed and Ready To Go (RTG) at Target Off-Blocks Time (TOBT) -5 minutes (RTG-5). Poor levels of on-time performance (OTP) can be attributed to many reasons: aircraft technical delays; only one gate staff being paid for to complete boarding; or cabin crew being expected to clean aircraft, including hoovering, prior to completing their safety critical tasks. In an effort to improve our OTP, management have offered financial incentives to both Flight and Cabin crew to meet RTG-5 targets. In my mind this just puts another hole in our Swiss cheese model that crew need to protect against. Our industry’s history is littered with incidents that have been caused by rushed departures or arrivals, and I fail to see any justification from a flight safety perspective to take this course of action.

CHIRP Comment

CHIRP is also concerned that such incentives could encourage unwanted/unsafe behaviours as people potentially try to cut corners in order to achieve the payment criteria.  We also note that, in some locations, ground handlers also receive incentives for achieving on-time or early departures and so the problem might be more endemic than it appears. The problem is akin to ‘press-on-itis’ in its potential for safety impact through people accepting poor, ill-considered or rushed outcomes by deviating from procedures. Whilst the concept of incentives is not unsafe in itself if enacted appropriately, their introduction needs to be done with appropriate mitigations in place to ensure that short-cuts are not made and safety is not compromised. CHIRP has passed on this report to the CAA who have agreed to review the matter in order to understand more specifically what is going on and, in the short term, they have increased their oversight of the company involved in order to review this and related concerns.

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