Covid-19 has presented the travel businesses with unprecedented uncertainty which has underscored the importance of being nimble, resilient and resourceful when the going gets tough.
These are core attributes that Singapore-based budget airline Scoot believes in, and is confident that staying true to these attributes will continue to put the brand in good stead to ride through the pandemic.
“We would not have been able to ensure smooth uninterrupted operations if not for a workforce that could adapt quickly to changes – from transitioning to remote working arrangements and maintaining a minimal staff count for essential operations during circuit breaker, to allocating additional manpower resources to assist with customer refunds when the volume of cases escalated,” Campbell Wilson, chief executive officer of Scoot tells The Drum.
“When we had to temporarily suspend the majority of our network, Scoot had to pivot swiftly to ensure we could still retain our flying crew who, in the absence of flying allowances, were grounded with reduced pay. We leveraged on the close relationship we have always had with our staff union, and the government, to source for secondary employment opportunities.”
He continues: “Currently, over 400 cabin crew and pilots are engaged in temporary roles supporting Singapore’s Covid-19 response. We also sourced for temporary job opportunities with a private company, securing another 100 roles for cabin crew.”
Wilson also points out Scoot was one of the first airlines to start operating cargo charters as an alternative revenue stream, activating its narrowbody fleet and carrying cargo in the aircraft cabins to optimise carriage.
“We have had to be resourceful in many different ways. Even in marketing, despite budget constraints, the team has been able to come up with some creative ideas and neat approaches to get our messages across, both internally and externally,” he adds.
As countries globally ease out of lockdown, it will be only a matter of time before travel resumes. While Scoot is preparing for the eventuality, Wilson says the airline’s top priority, as always, is ensuring the safety of customers and its crew.
Scoot has implemented enhanced health and safety measures across all touchpoints in the customer journey and hold health checks for its crew.
“We are also determined to give our customers greater peace of mind when they travel with Scoot. We are one of the few airlines offering eligible customers the option of refunds in cash or vouchers in 120% value, should their flights be canceled during this time,” explains Wilson.
“Moreover, to allow customers to book with confidence, new bookings made from now until the end of July will have the option of a one-time free date change. We continue to keep in close contact with regulators and other experts to ensure that we are abreast of the latest information and observing best practices.”
To showcase its efforts, Scoot tapped its creative agency BLKJ to create a video with the brief to ‘encouraging responsibility while still keeping spirits up’.
Featuring Wilson, the video called #WanderAtHome, is a tongue-in-cheek series sharing content to keep the travel spirit alive while staying safe at home. It was creatively shot on a laptop using Zoom’s virtual background function.
The video also praises all Scoot staffers who have stepped up and walked the talk - from essential operations staffers keeping Singapore’s supply chain running by maintaining our cargo charter flights to the redeployment of crew members taking up secondary employment in public organizations.
Finally, the video captures the sentiment around what travellers had taken for granted before and showing how everyone has a part to play in making air travel a safe experience when we start to fly again.
“The current brand effort is centred around understanding the customer and their needs and addressing them in a clear, reassuring way. Helping people understand the measures that have been implemented to keep everyone safe is important in restoring their confidence to travel once border restrictions ease,” says Wilson.
“This is far more important than travel inspiration or generic brand-building, both of which must take a back seat for a while. This education and reassurance is not, and cannot be, a “one and done” effort. It requires regular, informative engagement. Of course, we try and do it in the Scoot style, which is more lighthearted, fun and quirky than others, without detracting from the message or seriousness of the subject.”
While Wilson says it is still too early to say what the new normal for air travel will be, he is hopeful that just as with all previous challenges aviation has faced, things will recover. He notes that as with the post-9/11 security measures, Covid-19 will have some lasting impact, but other aspects will be temporary.
At the moment, Scoot has introduced new measures such as the wearing of masks for all passengers, pre-assigned seating onboard to enable safer distancing, enhanced cleaning and the provision of care kits consisting of items like anti-bacterial wipes, sanitizer and a surgical mask.
Other measures such as limits on carry-on baggage to minimise “bunching” and reduced inflight service to reduce physical interaction will be temporary.
“We are hoping that customers will accept the inconvenience as a necessary step in getting the world safely moving again and we can all get back to exploring and experiencing what the world has to offer. I believe that the need for travel is irreplaceable and it is human nature to want to explore,” explains Wilson.
The Drum previously looked at how travel brands are hastily putting plans in place for the safe return of tourists while keeping in mind that the potential of a second wave is plausible.