The commercial airline industry is one of the most heavily regulated business sectors in the world. This intense governmental oversight—from both domestic and global regulators—creates the conditions for all sorts of compliance requirements and places a premium on company responsiveness to government investigations.
For example, airlines are frequently required to comply with regulatory inquiries regarding licensing issues, safety rules, competition analysis and other government enforcement matters. They also need to be nimble enough to respond to investigations into the way they conducted their businesses in the midst of unforeseen events, such as this year’s COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has dramatically impacted international air travel.
It is important for all major commercial airlines to be proactive—well in advance of these types of investigations—so they are implementing a compliance readiness plan that can be mobilized in the event they are contacted by government regulators. The airlines that are the fastest to comply with government investigations are typically the companies that receive the most favorable treatment by regulators (e.g., fines, penalties, etc.) as they demonstrate to government officials that they are prepared to help them do their jobs as quickly and easily as possible.
Here are five tips that airline executives may wish to consider when implementing a compliance readiness plan for future investigations:
- Understand your data landscape—Take a proactive approach to the way you collect internal communications and documents when contacted by authorities. Be clear on where your emails are archived, whether you are using cloud servers or on-premises servers, what specific internal communications platforms your employees use and what your data retention schedule is for each type of data across the organization.
- Prepare your employees—Make sure that your internal team members are alert to the likelihood of a government investigation and establish a culture of compliance readiness now. Walk them through the types of business practices that regulators are likely to be investigating, review your company policies and guidelines, and be clear about the importance of conducting themselves in an ethical manner at all times.
- Run targeted collections—Consider the possibility of actually beginning to run some targeted data collections from internal information sources around the dates associated with an event that is likely to lead to future inquiries. This might allow you to get a head start on potential data inquiries from regulators down the road and put you in a position of being able to demonstrate lightning fast responsiveness to their requests.
- Respect data privacy laws—Evaluate how relevant privacy laws (e.g., GDPR, Privacy Shield, etc.) might need to govern the handling, sharing and storage of personal information by airlines. A best practice here is to consult outside counsel for a thorough assessment of privacy requirements that can impact your data collection processes.
- Mobilize your internal resources—The best way to be certain that you are prepared for a regulatory demand is to conduct thorough quality control checks in advance of an inquiry. Document your chain of custody for collection and production in a way that details your data sources, physical descriptions of the media onto which data will be transferred, and steps taken throughout the workflow. This preparation exercise will serve to mobilize your internal team and have everyone on standby, ready for action when the moment arrives.
Airline executives can maximize their compliance readiness for potential government investigations by equipping their organization with sophisticated technology tools designed to facilitate collaboration and efficiency throughout any potential data investigations. For example, AccessData’s AD Enterprise can perform comprehensive end-to-end forensic investigations within a single tool by collecting all sorts of complex data types directly at the endpoint. The software performs memory analysis and executes targeted collections on any file attribute across the enterprise, and can even be used as a remote data collection tool.
One of the realities of serving on the executive team for a commercial airline company is that you must comply with multiple layers of government oversight. This high degree of regulation inevitably leads to government investigations, whether the trigger is a routine corporate matter or an unpredictable incident that forces you to make difficult business decisions under pressure. Prudent airline executives will take action now to prepare themselves for these future investigations so they can demonstrate fast and responsive data compliance.
Contact us for more information about how we can help you be compliance ready.
Maximilian Wagner is an Account Executive for the DACH region and is located in our Frankfurt office.