UAE's Etihad to begin trials for IATA Travel Pass on select routes in March - official
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UAE’s Etihad to begin trials for IATA Travel Pass on select routes in March – official

UAE’s Etihad to begin trials for IATA Travel Pass on select routes in March – official

Etihad recently became the first airline in the world with 100 per cent of its operating pilots and cabin crew vaccinated

IATA travel pass etihad

The aviation industry has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, but with vaccination programmes underway, there is hope that the situation is improving.

But what measures are airlines taking to ensure a smooth and safe travel experience for passengers?

Gulf Business speaks to Terry Daly, executive director of Guest Experience, Brand and Marketing at Etihad Airways, to find out more.

With vaccination programmes now underway worldwide, do you expect to see a big impact on the aviation sector?

As more and more countries move toward high levels of vaccination, it will inevitably lead to growth in air travel once more.

The UAE is leading the way and we expect our home market to bounce back faster than others. Other GCC countries are also growing their vaccination programmes and we expect this will contribute to an increase in demand.

While it is impossible at this stage to determine exactly how Covid-19 will play out, it’s not unrealistic to assume that we’ll see some form of health visa or wellness certification as the world starts to harmonise on transport standards. To that end, we have been working with a variety of different companies, some within the industry, some outside of it, to develop the technology required for a global health certification system.

More recently, we partnered with the International Air Transport Association to launch the IATA Travel Pass. This will help Etihad’s passengers to easily and securely manage their travel in line with government requirements for Covid-19 tests or vaccines.

The trials for this will begin on selected routes in March. We have trialled a number of systems, and throughout this quarter, our trials will increase on a broader scale to determine the most efficient and accessible solution possible.

Read: UAE’s Emirates, Etihad to roll out IATA’s Travel Pass for Covid-19 test results and vaccination certificates

Etihad also recently became the first airline in the world with 100 per cent of our operating pilots and cabin crew vaccinated to help curb the spread of Covid-19. This will encourage passengers to return to the skies sooner, knowing that our flight crew have been vaccinated. Over 75 per cent of our entire workforce have voluntarily received the vaccine so far.

Read: UAE’s Etihad becomes world’s first airline to vaccinate entire flying crew

With governments continuing to announce sudden restrictions due to the volatile situation, how are airlines coping?

It goes without saying that the aviation industry witnessed unprecedented challenges in the past year. It’s been almost a year since the Covid-19 pandemic brought the travel industry worldwide to a halt and today, countries continue to impose lockdowns and restrictions to contain the outbreak.

We continue to follow UAE and international government, regulatory and health authority directives. It is certainly a challenge when the rules and regulations are changing almost on a daily basis, but we have set ourselves up to be able to respond quickly and adapt our business accordingly.

We’ve looked at all parts of our business to see where we could reduce cost and ensure our long-term financial health. This ranges from a reduction in our fleet size to sadly, having to lose a significant number of good people who were all part of the Etihad family.

Through the transformation programme we established before the pandemic struck, we were well on the way to achieving our goals, with a target for complete turnaround by 2023. While we have revised our outlook based on current realities, we remain committed to transforming the business for sustainable growth over the long term.

Many people are still avoiding travel due to health concerns. What can airlines do to make passengers feel more comfortable flying?

Flying has been proven to be a safe method of travel during the pandemic. An aircraft is a safe environment as HEPA air filters on board remove more than 99 per cent of viruses and bacteria from the air. There have been few reported incidents where onboard transmission is suspected. The data tells us that the risk of onboard transmission of the virus is low when compared with other public indoor environments, such as trains, buses, restaurants and workplaces.

While the risk of transmission on an aircraft is low, passengers can take additional precautions to further lower the risk. Following guidance to wear a mask or face covering, a requirement on all Etihad flights, provides significant protection to all on board.

Since August 2020, we’re the only airline in the world to make Covid-19 PCR testing mandatory throughout our global network, before departure and on arrival in Abu Dhabi for 100 per cent of passengers. Testing has proved highly effective in detecting Covid-19 pre-travel.

This has given us a wealth of data and insight, and shows us that we do not see onboard transmission, which is supported by the correct precautions being taken.

We’ve also included global Covid-19 insurance in every ticket, so passengers are covered when they’re away from home. This additional cover instils an additional level of confidence to travel and reassures passengers that we are doing all we can to keep them protected.

Etihad has also developed a comprehensive destination guide on our website to make sure travellers always have access to the latest travel information and testing and quarantine regulations worldwide.

Looking ahead, what kind of changes do you see in passenger demand and preferences?

Due to the effects of Covid-19, we can see that what matters most to travellers has changed. To address those concerns head on, Etihad Wellness was incorporated into our guest proposition from June 2020, across all touch points.

This ranges from employing the highest cleaning and sterilisation standards to incorporating touchless features within lavatories and windows on our aircraft. In the future, we can expect to see premium seats with additional privacy and separation.

Lastly, has the pandemic transformed the way airlines will operate in the future with respect to customer service and offerings?

The impact of the pandemic was brutal to our operation, but we acted with agility to completely redesign our guest experience to meet the demands of the industry and the expectations of our passengers.

For the foreseeable future, it’s fair to assume that cabin crew will continue to limit their direct interaction with guests and restrict their presence in the cabin. PPE and face masks will still be worn, and enhanced hygiene precautions will be maintained throughout each meal service. How meal services are presented and delivered will be re-evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure Covid-19 precautionary measures are met.

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