The Rise of Flexible Work

Airlines Cash In as Flexible Work Changes Travel Patterns Become Normal Part of the Competition

The rise of flexible work — where employees can choose when to work full time and when to pick up shifts — represents a fundamental cultural change in the airline industry.

When United first announced plans to offer more employee-chosen part time work, customers and employees began speaking up, demanding they be given the option. In the long term, this change represents the biggest single shift in the airline industry’s approach to flexible work in almost a generation.

“This is one of those changes where I view it as both a game changer and a wake-up call,” said Matt Sholtz, United’s chief people officer.

The trend to offer flexible work is starting to hit the travel industry. With more than 20 years of work in travel, Sholtz says the change in culture is no longer a flash in the pan. More than 200,000 passengers flew on United’s flexible work initiative last year.

“It’s the future of travel,” said Rani Shanker, vice president of product and business development at JetBlue and a longtime flexible work proponent.

“I think when they were flying on United, these are young people in their 20s and 30s who had been flying for three or four years and they had never flown a flight on their own in the last three or four years and now, here is a brand that is now offering something that is completely different than what they used to do and how they had always perceived the term ‘work’ to mean something that was outside of the workplace,” Shanker said.

But before he turned work into a brand, Sholtz took a different route.

He grew up in a small town in the central part of California where the economy was very family-oriented and people generally preferred to work with others, rather than from work.

He was the fourth of six siblings. The oldest son and the only boy in the family, he was expected to become a lawyer or doctor. He attended law school, but the idea of being away from his family didn�

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