Samantha Saunders, Head of Innovation & Regulatory Compliance at ABM Aviation, explains what she believes the aviation industry should be doing
It’s fair to say, the airport has been an eerie place over the past few months – something you’d never have said about the summer months.
We’ve missed the hustle and bustle, the chatter and laughter of holidaymakers in anticipation of a holiday abroad, the brand ambassador giving passengers a spritz of a new fragrance and ceramic coffee cups clinking as businessmen and women got their morning caffeine fix before a busy day of meetings at their next destination.
For aviation, one of the hardest hit industries, the Coronavirus pandemic meant that the sector almost shut down overnight. Airlines grounded entire fleets and the Foreign Secretary issued a statement advising against “all non-essential international travel” with immediate effect. Then came the quarantine rules.
For a business that is built around providing a wide range of airport services, we have found ourselves facing a situation where the whole landscape as we know it, has changed.
COVID-19 has shown us that without open and honest communication, community spirit, comradery and an ability to adapt to change, we wouldn’t be where we are today, ready to help get everyone flying again, not just quickly but, most importantly, safely.
Here’s why those four C’s are so important in our recovery:
With just 10% of our workforce working across the UK at our quietest point, it was a case of all hands of deck. The closeness and loyalty shared among our people has been fantastic and should be something that we keep hold of in the industry to keep it strong.
On one occasion during the pandemic, the ABM team, including senior managers, were able to support a number of FCO repatriation flights. On a chartered flight from Jamaica, we were told there were 20 customers to help, when in fact we assisted 98. Staff who would usually be working in offices, all came to help push wheelchairs, lift baggage and guide passengers through immigration and customers.
Without this comradery within airport teams, we wouldn’t be where we are today, ready to help get everyone flying again, not just quickly but, most importantly, safely
- COMMUNITY SPIRIT
This experience has really built a true community of people who want to help strangers, in the moment, every single day. It has been amazing to witness the agility and flexibility that all of our employees have shown during this challenging time. It stretches beyond our own teams but also to those we work closely with and the relationship between airports and its partners needs to be stronger than ever now.
It has been so incredibly difficult for employees, particularly those at home who had very little insight into what was going on at the airports.
We created a private Facebook account, which within two weeks of the furlough scheme being implemented, had attracted a community in the region of 1,500 members. We saw colleagues in Edinburgh reaching out and offering virtual support to others in London who were struggling through these times. This open dialogue must continue as we move closer to a ‘new normal.’
Ensuring staff are knowledgeable and up to speed with new protocols and measures will reassure passengers and become vital for recovery.
Life through COVID-19 has been a very complex matter. It has driven new ways of working, new processes to implement, new guidelines to adhere to and this is likely to continue being the case as we adapt to an ever-changing situation.
Perspex screens at our special assistance desks, staff wearing PPE at all times and COVID-19 secure protocols for cleaning equipment regularly after they have been used by passengers are just some examples of the change we’ve implemented and this is all just the beginning.
We must embrace the changes that are coming and work together to make them effective. As we all try to recover from the effects of the pandemic, one thing is certain, we must do everything we can for the aviation industry to make people feel safe and encourage them to fly again.