How to tackle airline crises, by Kenel & Torres Caldas9 October 2017
As uncertainty grips the globe, the aviation industry needs to be ready to manage crises and emergencies in an effective and efficient way. Michel Kenel, co-founder and managing partner of Kenel & Torres Caldas, emphasises the power of repetition in training and why he’s the person to call before a crisis happens.
Imagine the CEOs of major airlines board a private jet together to discuss business but are hijacked instead. It is an unusual scenario, but one for which airlines should prepare, in addition to more common situations such as aircraft crashes, says Michel Kenel, co-founder of Kenel & Torres Caldas.
“By training for events such as this, you will quickly see whether your crisis organisation is ready, and whether it really does use the simplest and best practices – or if they are too complicated,” Kenel says. “I believe in simple solutions and not in complex crisis procedures.”
Kenel is a training expert and scenario engineer with a wealth of experience from his time in the Swiss Air Force, for which he led military deployments of as many as 2,000 troops.
“Any day, something can happen,” he says. “This means you need a lot of expertise as you have to act under stress, and you really do not have a choice.”
During service for the armed forces, KeneI says he learned how to make appropriate decisions at critical junctures, rather than waiting to make the best decision, which can often end up being too late. Another important lesson learned is using the right methodology, which Kenel considers to be rigorous repetition and intense focus.
Kenel co-founded the company with Lucas Torres a little over a year and a half ago, but the pair has already secured large accounts such as Lufthansa to train its crisis and emergency response team.
A defining feature of Kenel & Torres Caldas’s training courses is their customisability. “Sometimes, customers know they need something but are unsure of what exactly this is and the best way to implement it,” Kenel says. “The company investigates their needs and ensures its courses deliver the best solutions.”
Often though, customers require training to conduct briefings during a crisis, exchange important information and make decisions under stress.
“I start with a conceptual framework in which l recommend course aims and outlines to customers,” Kenel says. “Based on their feedback, I amend aspects of the content to fit their needs. Then I start the training that includes exercise scenarios.”
Kenel travels to the companies in order to test existing crisis or emergency infrastructure or see how this can be implemented on their premises.
“The firm is very unconventional,” Kenel says. “I tell people, ‘If you want to insult me, call me a consultant’ because Kenel & Torres Caldas is really a training organisation that uses focus and repetition to make decisions under stress – nothing more, nothing less.”
There are many consultants out there, Kenel says, but he values going beyond that by providing training based on tailored solutions derived from experience.
“Of course, Kenel & Torres Caldas is different, because it provides practical training that relies on an exercise management tool, which can really put crisis organisations under a lot of pressure in any scenarios customers want,” Kenel says. “I use the tool to train information exchange and good situational awareness to assess how good crisis teams are.
“Processing information exchange and stakeholder communication is key to good crisis management. With this tool, you can really make them sweat.”
Do it yourself
A lot of Kenel’s competitors try to become irreplaceable, but the key point is to “enable self-enabling” where customers need only one to three years of support before being able to do it alone.
No matter the size of the company or the reasons why it is employing Kenel & Torres Caldas’s expertise – these range from bad experiences, being forced by regulations or wanting to improve their crisis organisation or response team – Kenel says his tailored approach will provide valuable insight.
“This is a start-up firm and it wants to expand to cater to more customers, but the intention is not just to get big,” Kenel says. “Kenel & Torres Caldas wants to provide better training, research decision-making strategies, double-up best practices and talk with people who have survived crisis scenarios to find out how they did it.”
While a hijacked private jet carrying airline CEOs is a more obscure hypothetical crisis, it is symbolic of the sheer range of calamities that can befall an airline. Having the right response to an emergency can save lives, minimise damage and ensure operational procedures continue as unhindered as possible.