Flying: the new reality
What will flying be like in the new post-coronavirus world? We had an exclusive chat with Katy Svennas, Head of Customer Journeys and Insights at Virgin Atlantic, on what you can expect.
First of all, the practicalities. What measures are Virgin Atlantic taking to keep passengers safe at the airport?
We have a lot of measures in place and some start before you even get to the airport. It’s really important that everyone coming to the airport is fit for travel, so we’ll have health screenings online and will ask anyone with symptoms not to travel, these will be asked again at the airport for anyone who isn’t reached online. We’re also advocating for temperature checks to be in place across all the airports we fly from and are working closely with our airport partners to implement this asap.
We love talking to our customers but are having to try to minimise interactions where possible, so we’ll be encouraging people to check in online. People who want to check in in person or speak to our agents will find our team wearing face masks to protect both our customers and our staff.
The check-in desks, bag drop areas, security checks and boarding gates will be cleaned regularly, and we’ll space customers out across busy areas to follow social distancing – for example, only allowing around small groups of passengers to board at a time to keep passenger numbers down in the jet bridge. We are committed to protecting our customers.
And while in the aircraft?
We’ve increased the cleaning measures in place – we’ll be using strong disinfectants and ‘fogging’ the aircraft to get this into hard to reach areas. No corner will be left untouched! We also have high efficiency air filters that remove 99.999% of particles from the cabin air including bacteria and viruses, making the aircraft a safe environment.
Once passengers are on board, we will be spacing them out as much as possible and will also have a dedicated isolation area on all flights for any passenger who feels unwell while travelling. All passengers will have to wear medical grade masks onboard, which we’ll provide along with hand sanitiser and surface wipes in a complimentary health kit.
What about queueing. Will there be more of it, or less of it?
As mentioned, we’ll encourage people to do self-service where they can – checking in online and scanning their own passport to try and reduce queues. However, we also want to space customers out across check in, bag drop and boarding areas to allow us to follow social distancing guidelines, so it’s a delicate balance…There will probably be more time required at the airport just because there are more checks in place for customers’ safety, but at the same time we don’t want anyone to spend more time at the airport than they need to, so we’ll try to get people on flights as quickly and safely as we can.
What’s the thing your passengers are most worried about, post-Covid-19?
It really is around health and safety – this is top of mind for everyone. We want to reassure passengers and let them know that we have done a lot of research into what we can do to ensure safety and show we’re going the extra mile.
And conversely, what’s the thing they are most excited about?
Most of our customers (and crew!) can’t wait to get back in the air. With lots of us spending more time at home than usual, and many missing their summer holiday this year, people have been dreaming of their next trip. They can’t wait to rebook for next year and we’ve very excited to take them on their next adventure.
We’ve seen news that people won’t be able to stand in the aisles etc. so will Virgin Atlantic be creating anything that will help keep young kids occupied in their seats?
We know travelling with children can be challenging at the best of times. In the past, we’ve worked closely with Virgin Holidays on bespoke activities to keep kids busy onboard. We’re currently reviewing these to see if we can make any of these work in a contactless way. We do also have dedicated channels for children as part of our in-flight entertainment and parents can bring things to keep children entertained onboard too.
What are you doing to keep that bit of Virgin Atlantic fabulousness? And to keep flying fun?
Our crew will be smiling behind their masks and bringing that Virgin Atlantic spirit onboard while delivering the excellent customer service we’re famous for. Although the service will be a little different to how it was before, we’re pushing to keep things as fun as possible while remaining safe.
We’ll also be offering a hot food service, which you might not see on a lot of airlines. We’ve simplified how we’ll deliver this, so meals will be prepared in a Covid-19 safe environment and arrive boxed for passengers to enjoy. Plus, we’ll offer all adult passengers a beer or wine with the first meal service and we know a lot of our customers will see this as a perk. We want to minimise contact, but we also want to offer the best food and drinks service that we can.
How will Virgin Atlantic encourage people to fly long-haul with so many restrictions in place?
We’re encouraging people to fly with us by going above and beyond in our communications – we’re letting customers know about the measures that we have in place around safety, security, health and wellbeing, as well as the measures in place at the destinations we fly into. We’re hoping to give customers peace of mind, so they have the confidence to book their next trip, and we know passengers are excited to start travelling again, so we’d love to be the company that takes them on that next trip.
What are you doing to set yourselves apart from the competitors?
We feel the Virgin Atlantic personality and spirit, our in-flight food and drink service, as well as our complimentary health pack offering, differentiate us from other airlines. Also, in terms of sustainability, we have one of the youngest and greenest fleets in the sky, which sets us apart.
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