Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie has explained how his airline was already preparing for post-COVID travel, even before the outbreak was known. He noted that the airline was already investing in a low-contact passenger experience and that it has been ‘lucky’ that the investments it was making have set it up for a strong recovery from the crisis.
Spirit was ready for COVID
During a recent Future Travel Experience webinar, Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie was asked about the airline’s preparedness for COVID-19 and all the challenges it brought. He responded by saying,
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than smart.”
Christie went on to explain what he meant by this, identifying areas where Spirit had already invested and improved, which proved to be highly valuable during the pandemic. He said,
“We have worked very hard over the last few years to implement new technologies intended to increase the seamlessness and the ease of the travel experience for our guests, from the first time we interact with them online through their booking experience all the way to the airport, onboard the airplane, airbag reclamation and then dealing with any issues and beyond.
“We’ve been rolling out self bag-tag machines and self bag-drop machines. [That was] really originally intended to make things easier, because that’s what people like when they get to the airport. But the hidden benefit here is that we’re actually reducing contact with our guests by using more self-service options.”
It’s a happy accident that Spirit had already begun a huge rollout of things like its self-service bag tagging well in advance of COVID, so it was in a good position to tackle the issue of a more contactless airport experience.
Pushing to get it to all locations
Currently, Sprit has a list of 43 airports on its website that accept self-tagging. That’s around two-thirds of the airports Spirit serves. While that’s good going, considering the first system only debuted less than a year ago, the airline is keen to roll out the technology to more of its network. Christie said,
“As we roll out these technologies through our network, we think that one of the benefits is we’ll be able to encourage further social distancing at the airport. At the same time, we’ll be making [the passenger’s] experience a little better too.
“We were headed in one direction for one reason, and it ended up benefiting us as well for another, and that’s great. That’s the way the product will be deployed over time, and I think that’s going to make our guests feel even better as they head back to the airport.”
It’s clear that a more contactless experience is going to be crucial going forward. This was already something Spirit was focused on, setting the airline ahead of the game for a post-COVID recovery. Of course, that’s not all Spirit is doing to encourage passengers back into the skies.
What is Spirit doing to keep passengers safe?
Spirit is following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for airlines around preventing the spread of disease on aircraft. This has led to enhanced safety measures for both passengers and crew, including the wearing of face coverings on board.
In addition to masks, Spirit is using fogging to disinfect aircraft, state-of-the-art, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to clean the air onboard and has trained staff in providing a safe and hygienic service. Passengers are encouraged to use the Spirit app and, of course, the self bag-drop where possible.
But what can customers expect on board? Will there be food and drink for sale? Christie explained,
“We do have products available [to buy on board], but it is by request… If you’d like to purchase something on board, you can ring the flight attendant, and they will come to your seat and offer you our onboard catering. But we’re not going through the aisle right now.
“Again, this is us adapting to the current environment, but the experience onboard is very similar to what you’d expect otherwise. We still have a very young fleet, and with our new redesigned cabin, we think we’ve enhanced the comfort on board.”
Spirit seems well placed to make a solid recovery from COVID, and the CEO mooted that we could see further technologies deployed in the near future to make travel even safer. He indicated that the airline is looking into biometric technology; perhaps we’ll see biometric boarding deployed at Spirit locations soon, which will further reduce the need for contact during the travel experience.
Do you think Spirit is doing a good job of mitigating the dangers of COVID-19? Would you feel safe flying soon? Let us know in the comments.
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