So I have spent much of this past weekend mulling over whether to write this story or not, but it is one that I feel needs to be told and also for the benefit of my fellow colleagues in this incredible aviation/travel industry that we work in. The first part is a personal observation, the second regarding a challenging client! So, as I have individuals in my household who are shielding due to vulnerabilities, I have generally stayed and worked at home over the past 4 months and last week ventured out for my first hotel stay in a COVID-19 World. Now don't get me wrong, the hotel did a brilliant job but, to put it mildly, it was awful.
THE HOTEL EXPERIENCE
Check in was electronic at an arms-length using touch screens, three hotel staff in a row all masked up and only one person in the lift at a time. All lobby seating had been removed, seals on the bedroom doors and towels in a plastic bag. All the "nice" things that make a hotel special were gone. No pillows, throws, magazines to flick through, menu's or directory of services, no mini-bar, tea & coffee facilities and a photocopied restaurant menu.
Dinner in the hotel involved downloading an app and ordering and paying on line - that took a while and it could be challenging for guests who aren't technically minded. Once again, the staff were lovely and the hotel doing its best to protect both them and us. Breakfast in the morning involved a brown paper bag with a "Breakfast to Go" and a coffee from the in-house Starbucks. Check out was similarly contactless. Had the hotel done everything it could to ensure a safe stay - absolutely. Did I enjoy my stay - no - through no fault of their own. So my question is, if this is what staying in a hotel is going to be like - would I really like to go to one on vacation? Probably not.
THE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE
So here comes the bit I was mulling over about. So last week we didn't meet client expectations. Now, as a Private Jet Company, we are all about luxury. But, then again, we also have a Duty of Care to our Staff and our Passengers in this Covid-19 World. The whole point of writing this article is raise the question of client expectations and how this can bounce back negatively on the Broker and/or Travel Agent/Operator and it is an important question for anyone working in aviation or travel.
We have a clearly defined Fly Safe Protocol. It's on our website. It goes out with our Confirmations. It communicates what we are doing to help keep everyone safe.
We had guests who chartered an aircraft from us for a break in the sun. It's what we do and the routing and service is a regularly flown one. We advised the Broker of our Covid-19 Policy, our Flight Reps at the Airport even apologized directly to the guests before boarding for the limited on board service. But what resulted was disappointment.
Gone are the white table cloths, the flowers on the table, the platters of freshly baked cookies, the newspapers and magazines, the pretty throws and cushions. The catering is served on disposable items so that we can ensure the safety of crew and future passengers, Covid Secure "Gift" Packs are on each seat. Is this really the luxury experience that customers have come to expect when flying on a private jet? No. But it is what has to be done.
So the challenge here, for us as an industry, is how do we manage client expectations? We felt that we had communicated well prior to the flight, but evidently not. To what degree should we go to keep our clients happy while trying to balance our adherence to Health & Safety Policies and our Duty of Care? We have always prided ourselves at Flitestar on delighting our guests. We have hosted royalty, flown world-icon's, movies stars and music legends. We also fly Mr and Mrs Jones from Cheshire. Each and everyone equally important and valuable to us as customers.
The challenge for all of us in this industry now is how do we keep delighting our Customers when our hands are tied by regulation and health concerns? Only time will tell.