DALLAS – While pilots or flight attendants are the most well-known jobs in aviation, there are many individuals working behind the scenes in the air travel industry. If you are considering working for an airline, there are different options you might not know about.
The Airways‘ Jobs in Aviation series showcases interviews with individuals working in the aviation industry so our readers can learn more about their jobs and get a better understanding of the scope of the many jobs in commercial aviation. Our first interview with Catherine Jackson showcased the job of a flight dispatcher.
For this second interview, Airways had the opportunity to speak with Elise May, Inflight Safety Program Manager for Southwest Airlines (WN).
The Role of a Safety Program Manager
Noam Ismaaili: Hello, and welcome to the interview. Could you first explain what your role at Southwest Airlines is?
Elise May: I am currently the Senior Program Manager of inflight safety and regulatory compliance at Southwest Airlines. My functions center around safety for our flight attendants and also building and maintaining good relationships with our regulators, such as the FAA or TSA.
I also manage our inflight fatigue risks management program for our flight attendants. We are currently in our third year, as I introduced the program and currently manage it. I am also involved in our aviation safety action program (ASAP). I started our ASAP program about 10 years ago and managed that for about 5 years. I currently work on flight attendants investigations, whether that is injuries, accidents, incidents, or anything unusual that takes place on the aircraft.
And for the last two years, I’ve been heavily involved in mask compliance issues, and working on investigations with the TSA and FAA, in their efforts to make passengers accountable for following the mask mandate, but also for the passenger not-compliance events, that those mask events can often lead to.
Have you encountered this type of mask issue in the last two years?
Yes, we have had, as an industry in the US, a tremendous number of passengers not respecting the mask mandate, whether that would be a passenger not wearing the mask at all, or not wearing it properly, for example, only wearing it over their mouth but not over their nose.
And often when our flight attendants would go and remind them of the requirement, those situations would escalate and turn into not-compliance or even threat level events.
What does managing a program for inflight safety and regulatory compliance entail?
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Featured image: WN is a major US low-cost airline. Photo: Ryan Scottini/Airways