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  • Writer's pictureWan Qing

Innovative Airline Recovery Strategies

Airlines across the globe have faced unprecedented challenges in 2020. The threat of COVID-19 brought about travel restrictions that severely limited the amount of flights, made travellers hesitant to fly, and even forced some airlines to shut down. Despite the circumstances, many airlines have managed to continue running. Here are some of the innovative strategies airlines employed to stay afloat in this pandemic.

Singapore Airlines’ Restaurant A380 at Changi Airport

I recently came across surprising news on social media. I learned about Singapore Airlines’ flights to nowhere offer. The first thought that popped into my head was “what a waste of fuel!”. The plan was eventually dismissed by people who shared my opinion, and a few weeks later, Singapore Airlines came up with a different plan. They proposed a more interactive, educational approach – a restaurant! Seats were snapped up quickly. Although I was too late to reserve any seats, I managed to speak to a friend who managed to buy seats for his family.

For two weekends, two airplanes were parked at Changi Airport. The two jumbo A380s were converted into restaurants to mimic the experience of in-flight dining. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the restaurants only accepted 250 passengers to ensure safe and adequate crowd control was possible – a stark difference from the planes’ usual 470 passenger capacities. What was intriguing was how closely the entire ushering process resembled the pre-flight boarding experience. Passengers – restaurant guests, in this case – began their journey in the departure hall just as they would before a flight. The only difference was the different booths set up to help guests pass time while they waited to "board”.

After boarding, guests were treated to a pre-dining restaurant tour, during which they were introduced to areas around the airplane that they would not normally have access to, such as the cockpit. After the tour, guests were shown their seating areas, and presented with dishes prepared by Chef Shermay Lee. In-flight entertainment was also provided, so that guests could browse the selection whilst eating, much like how we usually have our in-flight meals.

The restaurants’ intent to simulate an in-flight experience was successful, with additional perks like the tour, as well as limited edition souvenirs to take home. I love the fact that Singapore Airlines did not just market it as a dining experience, but also an educational experience that can be enjoyed by guests of all ages. My friend's 12 year old son shared that he thoroughly enjoyed the experience, describing his visit to the cockpit – his favourite part. The experience quenched the thirst of his young, inquisitive mind on how aircrafts operate.

Repurposed Bags by Thai Airways

If there is an award for business pivoting, Thai Airways would have this in the bag – pun intended! Alongside many other airlines, they were hit hard by airport closures all around the world. With international travel suspended, the airline had to find a way to resolve their financial difficulties. One method they used was branching out to the fashion industry with their Life Vest x Lifestyle collection.

Photo by Thai Airways

The entire collection of handbags, tote bags, and pencil cases is made with repurposed lifejackets. The collection has already sold out by the time you read this. It’s easy to see why: the bags are appealing on multiple levels, as they are fashionable, innovative, as well as sustainable. This is a great way to introduce upcycling to local communities, and it is inspiring to see corporations exercise corporate social responsibility even in times like these. It’s a win-win situation for Mother Earth and Thai Airways. In order to increase appeal and to clearly connect the collection with their airline services, real Thai Airways cabin crew members modelled for this product range.

It remains uncertain when international leisure travel will begin again – and it is unclear how long airlines will take to fully recover from the effects of COVID-19. Knowing how to pivot and adapt is particularly crucial in these circumstances. Even the Hong Kong-Singapore leisure travel plan faced obstacles. There are factors that cannot be predicted, which may thwart plans. In Mandarin, there is a saying: 计划赶不上变化, loosely translated to “Plans will always fall behind changes.” It is in these situations that we can learn to become more resilient. Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways offer fine examples for those in the hospitality and tourism industry to follow.

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