Air Canada President and CEO Calin Rovinescu says the most important factor in the return of travel demand will be “customers having confidence that travel on our airline is safe.”
Rovinescu made his remarks in a video message uploaded to Air Canada’s YouTube channel earlier this week.
In the post, published on May 4th, the CEO says that Air Canada is focusing on adapting new protocols around cleanliness, safety and hygiene as the world adjusts to the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We're actively rethinking all aspects of the travel experience,” says Rovinescu.
True to Rovinescu’s words, Air Canada unveiled a new program that same day called CleanCare+, which focuses on personal safety and enhanced aircraft grooming to provide passengers greater peace of mind while flying.
The program, interestingly, includes mandatory pre-flight temperature checks (the first airline in North America to introduce such a protocol) and health questionnaires that customers must fill out.
There’s new seat assignment policies that allow for more personal space in Economy Class on all flights until June 30th, 2020.
Customers will also be handed care kits for hand cleaning and hygiene.
Is this the future of air travel? It is for now, at least.
Rovinescu says social distancing “will be emphasized” throughout the air travel experience, from airport check-in to security cues to lounges to airport gates to when it’s time to board.
And while public restrictions are slowly easing in select provinces, Air Canada will continue to apply “hospital-grade sanitization” methods when cleaning its aircraft and airport lounges.
“We plan to maintain and refine this enhanced regime as travel returns,” says Rovinescu, adding that technology, such as self-serve options, will also be enhanced.
Still, despite the current and incoming changes, the CEO says Air Canada will indeed stay true to its roots.
“We will also stay true to the foundational product and service elements of our airline and retain the competitive advantages we have built over the years,” says Rovinescu.
Worse than 9/11, SARS & the financial crisis
Rovinescu says the COVID-19 pandemic has led the airline industry into the “darkest period ever” for commercial aviation.
“It is significantly worse than the aftermaths of 9/11, SARS or the 2008 global financial crisis,” says Rovinescu.
Air Canada has suspended 90 per cent of its schedule, including flights to the U.S. until May 21st.
The airline is carrying five per cent as many passengers as it did last year at this time, the majority of staff are on furlough, and most aircraft are grounded, says Rovinescu.
“Effectively, our airline is in an induced coma,” he says.
IATA reports that global passenger revenues are projected to shrink by 55 per cent, resulting in $450 billion in lost revenue for the airline industry.
On Monday, Air Canada gave the public a taste of what a coronavirus-related hit looks like after posting a $1.05 billion loss in its first quarter due to travel restrictions and closed borders.
In response, Rovinescu said it could take Air Canada up to three years to return to the revenue levels it had in 2019.
This pandemic needs to end first, however. And getting there will take time, patience and respect for the health protocols currently in place.
“Make no mistake,” Rovinescu says in his video message, “this pandemic, not government nor business, is going to decide when things return to some sense of normal.”
Watch Mr. Rovinescu’s complete video here.