My first day back was April Fool’s Day (this year),” Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson says. “Two days later, Singapore went into its version of lockdown.”
As we all know, COVID-19 is no joke. Neither was Wilson’s returning to the helm of the low-cost airline he helped found in 2011 at such a challenging time for the airline industry and tourism in general.
Since then, Scoot — a Singapore Airlines subsidiary — has been extremely successful in weathering the storm while keeping customers and staff healthy, happy and hopeful for better days.
This has involved such measures as new safety arrangements, new refund and rebooking policies and even operating cargo flights using their passenger aircraft.
A good example of Scoot’s focus on customer satisfaction is the extension, to December 31, 2020, of their One-Time Free Date Change for New Bookings and COVID-19 Travel Waiver Policy. Under the policy, affected customers get to choose between a 100 per cent refund to their original mode of payment or a 120 per cent refund in Scoot vouchers, should their flights be cancelled.
Wilson says he was fortunate to have many of the staff he knew still present upon his return from working for parent company Singapore Airlines. “So it was quite easy to pick up those relationships again and take things forward,” he says.
It also helped that he was a “known quantity,” which made it easier to take “some good steps forward notwithstanding some very challenging circumstances”.
The first step was to address the needs of thousands of affected customers. The second was to ensure the safety of staff, crew and passengers once flights resumed.
“No airline was set up to receive queries and questions from hundreds and thousands of people in such a short amount of time,” he says.
“So a huge amount of effort initially went into automating systems and bringing staff and cabin crew in to do service jobs, just to try to address people’s concerns.”
Safety-wise, Scoot followed medical recommendations regarding safe travel from WHO and other bodies.
“A lot of that was around personal protective equipment, cleaning regimes, HEPA filtering to ensure cabin air is hospital-grade,” he says. “And investing (in technology) to make it as touchless an experience as possible right the way through from booking and check-in to ordering meals.”
Wilson says evidence suggests flying is one of the safer modes of transport currently available to travellers.
“There’s a lot of academic research suggesting the incidence of transmission on board aircraft is very low, almost nil.” He says the reasons include the air filtering, no face-to-face seating, a roof-to-seat airflow and rigorous cleaning regimes. So I think we can take a great degree of comfort in the practices put in place,” he says. “It’s a very layered approach from the industry, and from airlines, and some of these things are going to be with us for a while. Which is fine.”
Wilson points out that a lot of the security protocols introduced after 9/11 are still with us, and that we simply adjusted.
“I think COVID-19 is going to be the same. Human beings are really adaptable and fundamentally at heart we do want to travel. We do want to experience new things and see new places and visit friends and whatever the case may be.
“So we’ll adapt. The future of the industry is bright, even though things look pretty dark at the moment. The industry is alive and we’re planning for the future. Sooner rather than later, I suspect, we’ll be able to get people travelling around the world again in the same fun, friendly, good-value way that Scoot has always done.”
Listen to the full interview here.
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