As the travel industry begins the journey to post-covid recovery, we have been catching up with innovators in the industry over a cup of “virtual tea” to hear about both their predictions for the industry and any new innovations their companies are working on.
In our first few episodes, we went to the skies – sussing out what is happening with the airline industry. Check out our recap of our previous episode with Hank Benedetti from American Airlines here.
In Episode 2 we were lucky to share a cup of tea with Bob Somers, Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Delta Airlines.
On Bob’s teacup were the words, “I’m trying to be awesome today but I’m exhausted from being so awesome yesterday.” The phrase captured Bob’s optimistic spirit, even though we were speaking back in June when airline demand had recently dropped.
During our tea time, Bob shared the following:
1. Delta’s “handbook” to post-covid recovery.
This centred around three major priorities: safety and cleanliness, cash preservation and building for the future.
2. Safety and cleanliness on the airplane.
Delta carried out surveys amongst 2000 corporations and their employees within the first month of lockdown. They found 75% of respondents were concerned with the environment on the airplane and 65% were concerned with social distancing. Delta addressed these issues by carrying out electrostatic spraying in the airplanes, making masks mandatory, working with TSA to improve cleanliness in the airport and boarding passengers from back to the front of the plane. When the episode was recorded, Delta was blocking the middle seat until September. You can read more on Delta’s updated policies here.
3. Bob’s predictions for business travel recovery
Leisure travel is set to recover first with Delta already seeing demand from leisure travellers back in June. Essential business travel was predicted to come back with domestic travel being the first to recover. Video conferencing technology, which didn’t exist in previous crises like 9/11, may have a lasting impact on the travel industry today.
4. Refund policies
There is a lot of complexity, yet Delta wants to keep things as simple as possible and make tickets valid and easy to change into 2021.
5. The data Delta is most interested in. This includes:
- Government positioning data. They want to know when are countries are going to start opening borders and relaxing guidelines.
- Data showing when corporations are coming back to travel – both from employees and companies.
Speaking of data, Bob said he now looks to hotel data, attractions and corporates to see when consumers will start flying again:
“The airlines used to be a leading indicator for coming back or the economy going sideways. In this scenario, hotels reopening, restaurants reopening, attractions reopening…when Disney announced they were reopening in Shanghai, when they announced what they are going to open in Orlando…those are leading indicators now,” said Bob Somers.
‘I think what the generational data is going to show us is that the fear factor is the same with people like you and I as it is with millennials in terms of whether they want to get back and fly or not. But with millennials, when they get on a plane and fly one time, they are going to be good and are going to start flying at a much more rapid pace. That’s what the data is showing us,” said Bob.
Watch Travel Talk with Tea feat. Bob Somers: Part 1
Watch Travel Talk with Tea feat. Bob Somers: Part 2
You can listen to Bob’s conversation as well as our other tea time chats on our podcast here.
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