Airlines are getting creative in wooing back business travelers, a key travel segment that has virtually evaporated during the pandemic.
That’s why Delta Air Lines invited several local business travel planners to Pittsburgh International Airport last week as part of a national push to showcase its latest public health initiatives to get travelers safely through check-in, security, the gate and on the plane.
“What we’ve tried to do is set up, in most major cities across the country, airport tours where we invite the customers to come out and see a pretty detailed program on the safety and cleanliness efforts we are implementing across the system,” said Von Campanella, general manager, Global Sales for Delta. “It’s virtually the same in every Delta airport—maintaining the highest possible standards.”
“We need to tell this story and that will help instill confidence when the customer is ready and able to travel again.”
Airports and airlines have introduced new health and safety protocols since the onset of the pandemic. In May, Pittsburgh International launched its PIT Safe Travels initiative, which includes mandatory face coverings, enhanced disinfection and social distancing markers. Delta’s plan is called the Delta CareStandard. At Southwest, it’s The Southwest Promise.
And now airlines are inviting businesses in to see the new standards for themselves. Attendees at the Delta event said seeing the cleaning procedures and precautions firsthand was important.
“I thought it was wonderful. I even said to my travel agency rep, if they have the opportunity to go and see it, I encourage them to go,” said Melissa Carr, global strategic sourcing manager for PPG.
“It was enlightening and it was nice to be back in an airport even though it looks a little bit different now. Now if someone were to ask me, ‘How has the gate changed? How has ticketing changed? How has TSA changed?’ I can now speak to it.”
The tour included getting on a plane and watching the latest electrostatic cleaning procedures in action. It also included a look at PIT’s first-of-its-kind autonomous UV floor-scrubbing robots.
“I have participated in numerous virtual discussions regarding how the airline industry is addressing passenger health and safety during the pandemic,” said Paul Lang, manager, Travel, Fleet and Credit Card for Covestro. “Attending the Delta event in person gave me a valuable firsthand perspective and a stronger level of confidence that both Delta and the Pittsburgh airport are addressing these challenges in the best way possible.”
How soon business travel returns, and to what extent, remains to be seen. Both PPG and Covestro, for example, have very few employees traveling for business right now.
“We recognize that business air travel is a component of a healthy economy,” said Vince Gastgeb, Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs for PIT. “While leisure travel has been the first to slowly come back, we have been actively working with our airline partners and corporate community to install confidence in the air travel process.”