Clear skies ahead: How corp comm teams are allaying flyers' safety fears

The corp comm teams of airlines have been on their toes during the lockdown to keep their brands fresh in the minds of the flyers

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Jun 15, 2020 9:33 AM

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Unlock 1.0 gave subtle relaxations in the non-contaminated zones of the country, permitting basic and essential resumption of economic activities. Domestic flights too resumed in late May ending the long halt in the commercial aviation industry. Flying being the safest mode of commute, people have commenced travelling after the long pause. But for obvious reasons, flying would not be the same now. Necessary precautions and safety measures have to be taken care of along with clear channels of communication. The corporate communication teams have been on their toes amid the lockdown to keep the brands alive in the minds of the flyers. So, it would be interesting to know how the comms execs are handling work after resumption of domestic flights.
According to Rashmi Soni, VP & Head of Corporate Communication, Vistara, "As communicators, our effort will be to generate maximum awareness on the new norms, build passenger confidence and make travellers feel as much part of this change as are airlines, airports and other stakeholders in the ecosystem. We believe this will influence positive behavioural changes in travellers and make them more considerate flyers."
According to a report by CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory, the aviation industry has incurred daily losses of around Rs 65 crore due to shutdown of operations. Returning to the skies will definitely aid these avaition mugols to bounce back economically.
Asked about the kind of business being witnessed after the resumption, C Leekha, Director - Corporate Communications & Brand Reputation, at IndiGo (InterGlobe Aviation Ltd) informed, "We witnessed healthy traffic on the very first day of resumption of the flights, supporting more than 20,000 passengers to be home by nightfall. Almost 85% of our flights reached their final destination within 30 minutes of scheduled arrival time."
Soni too responded, "For now, we are largely seeing people undertaking only essential travel, as the last few months had kept many away from their homes and loved ones. In the last couple of weeks, we have had many overwhelming stories of people reuniting, which also give opportunities to a consumer-focused brand like Vistara from a communication perspective. We also expect business and leisure travel to resume eventually, but it depends on several other external factors. To travel is a fundamental human need which can’t be held back for too long."
Nishant Pitti- CEO & Co-founder at Easemytrip.com, drew our attention towards the demand in different tiers of the country. He informed, " The resumption of domestic aviation has caused a stir in the demand for Tier 2 cities which Delhi-Patna sector raking highest for EaseMyTrip.com. This is majorly because people got stuck in cities before unexpected announce of lockdown and have been waiting for this move since then. Traffic is heaviest for Delhi as the Indian capital is the destination or origin of seven of the 10 most booked routes. Also, traffic between metros is heavy but is heavier between metros and non-metros."
As the skies turn blue again, the focus has unquestionably shifted towards safety of the passengers and the employees. Not only ensuring social distancing at all points, be it airport entry, baggage drop counters, security checks, boarding gates coaches, ramp and baggage claim, but also disinfecting the aircraft after every flight as become essential important. Understanding the passengers' flying anxiety after the long halt, Leekha affirmed, " We do understand that there may be a little apprehension in minds of travellers about flying, but let me assure you that with all safety measures for COVID-19, flying is the safest way to travel at this point. We have taken all necessary precautions to ensure a safe and hassle-free flying experience aboard our lean, clean flying machines."
"Beyond the above mandatory measures, we are also encouraging customers to follow a few additional steps to ensure own safety and the safety of others including - advance web check-in on our website or app, fill in an online health declaration before being issued the online boarding pass, print the boarding pass and baggage tag, affix the baggage tag firmly on the luggage, carry only a small hand bag/ laptop bag that fits under the seat in front, pre-book add-on services like excess baggage and wheelchair assistance, reach the airport 2 hours prior to the flight, wear mask & gloves and keep a sanitizer handy, scan their boarding pass at the boarding gate and practice social distancing at all times. Besides these, we are encouraging customers to use airport rest rooms and have food/water at the airports as much as possible to minimize movement inside the aircraft. Most importantly, download the Aarogya Setu App to be able to fly hassle-free", added Leekha.

The travel industry will witness a change in their business models owing to the changed scenario. There will be a substantial change in people’s habits, preferences and desires for their travel in the future. High digital adoptions and emphasis on safety will be the new normal which will increase online penetration in travel industry. Key players would be restricting itself with a limited number of flights, keeping in mind the regional guidelines. Responding to how travel is bouncing back, Simran Kodesia, Communication Lead, India at airbnb said, "As people begin to travel again, the first and foremost thing on their mind will be safety. At Airbnb we have launched our new summer campaign ,'Go Near', a new initiative to support economic growth through domestic travel. The announcement comes as local travel begins to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the world begins to travel again. "
Pitti too added that Easemytrip is redefining its products and services to align them with customer requirements. He added, "In addition, we are integrating with new suppliers/companies which are willing to go an extra mile to ensure health and safety of travellers at every touchpoint."
The important question of will flying be different once the situation normalises arises here. Responding to the thought, Soni responded, "Some of the changes implemented now are here to stay. As organisations move faster in embracing new technologies, there will be sharper focus on automation and contactless processes. Sanitisation and hygiene will remain top priorities for travellers and these factors would also influence their choices. At Vistara we are driving this change through our marketing and communication campaign - Let's Make #FlyingFeelsSafeAgain."

"Domestic travel will benefit from a lot of pent up demand and travel industry as a whole will need to come together to build consumer sentiment and trust,"concluded Kodesia.

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