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Godspeed!

Handling employee and passenger safety in COVID time.

Amit Roy, Senior Account Manager, Weber Shandwick

Nikhil Dey, Vice Chair, Weber Shandwick India, found it rather tough to assure himself of his family’s health when they decided to return to their small-scale hospitality business in Wayanad after the government’s nod to the hospitality industry to resume services from June 8th. He believed that he was not the only one thinking of the safety of his people in this phase.

Employee first thinking is the best way to serve customers: When the aviation ministry ordered the domestic flights to resume from May 25, for Indigo too, one of the largest people carriers in the country, the biggest challenge was not just to cater to the heightened demand but to also ensure the safety of its employees who were supposed to operate on war-footing in the days to come.

Speaking at the ‘Creative Sandbox’ an online get-together of communication heads of travel and hospitality firms, C Leekha, Director, Corporate communications of IndiGo said, “We at IndiGo thought of our employees. We have a large ground crew and cabin crew, and they are the ones who are coming in contact with the customers and are in the firing line. We did expect a pent-up demand and that actually was the case once the airlines started operating since May 25, and there is a fair chance that the customers are asymptomatic which makes our crew vulnerable.”

With this situation in mind, the airline is doing everything possible to ensure that the crew is safe. From sanitizing planes before and after every departure, to providing them with the correct safety gear – the PPE kits, the face masks, gloves etc. to ensure that they are safe. The airline has also decided to not serve any food or any retail products in the flight to minimize contact. Even for the employees working out of their corporate office, their cars and cabins are being sanitized multiple times a day.

Keep the engine running, stay ready for take-off: In terms of preparedness, the good thing for Bangalore airport was that they had never shut down. Archana Muthappa, Head of Communications at Bangalore International Airport, said, “While the entire country was under lockdown, we continued with cargo flights and repatriation flights. The airport staff had to come in to work. We used this time to put together the entire contact-less process. This Process has ensured that the airport staff doesn’t even touch the baggage before it is checked-in. It is a must to ensure safety for both, the airport staff and the passengers.”

Stronger-Together: Ruchica Tomar, Vice-President, PR and Communications at MakeMyTrip however urged the entire ecosystem to put up a united front. She said, “Together we make a much better case for ourselves when we talk of safety as a primary need – for employees and customers alike. When you travel, you take a cab, you board a flight from one airport to the other. Once you land, you check-in to a hotel. There are multiple touch points when you travel.” In such a situation, she stressed that both the customer and the service providers need to be safe. She says that as an industry, and as members of the travel value chain, there has to be transparency and constant communication about elevating safety, which is the core concern of people at large – employees and customers.

Ruchica further mentioned that it would be unfair to leave everything to the government. While the government can roll out the protocols and the SOPs, it is upon the industry to come together and build the confidence again in people to travel. She believes that with so many well-known brands in the industry, it is achievable and better together.

Miles to go before we sleep, but the journey has begun. Godspeed.