100% vaccinated airline staff – the key to rebuilding brand trust

In the past, airline marketing teams forged strong relationships with passengers based on their extensive route networks, on-time performance and brand new aircraft equipped with premium suites. Post-pandemic, health safety is the top concern for returning travellers, so a new dynamic has emerged: Rebuilding trust has become the primary way to win business.

Every single staff member needs to be fully vaccinated if airlines are to rebuild trust in their brands. This is the new normal.

If recent headlines are anything to go by, airlines believe that fully vaccinating their workforce builds a solid foundation on which to rebuild passengers’ trust in air travel. In the past weeks, we’ve seen top airlines introducing vaccine mandates for all staff.

In Canada, the government requires it, so Air Canada and WestJet support that mandate. In the US, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are taking lead in ensuring all staff are vaccinated. United will no longer employ any unvaccinated staff past a September deadline. Delta has a $200 per month surcharge for non-vaccinated staff for additional insurance costs. Almost all Middle East and major Asian carriers jumped on the bandwagon months earlier. In fact, 100% of the Diamond-level airlines certified as part of the APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying program require their staff to be vaccinated.

Why is it important for an airline to have all staff vaccinated? Does it inspire confidence? Does it help rebuild trust in travel? Passengers and top travel executives certainly seem to think so. In a LinkedIn poll I ran, 86% of the 563 respondents favoured having airlines require all staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. While this view is becoming mainstream now, early progress was made by pioneering airlines months ago.

Image via LinkedIn

Early Birds

As early as February 2021, Etihad Airways claimed to be the world’s first airline to have 100% vaccinated frontline staff. Around the same time, Israel’s El Al Airlines also said it had vaccinated all relevant flight crew, security and other service personnel. Singapore Airlines group became the first to have 100% vaccinated staff across all its airlines, including its low-cost arm, Scoot. This measure allowed Scoot to become the first low-cost airline to be certified at Diamond-level by the APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying programme. As first movers, these airlines built a competitive advantage and are seen as industry leaders.

Fully vaccinated staff – a prerequisite for the travel industry

In a recent poll published by The Globe and Mail in Canada, the strongest support for proof of vaccinations was in the travel category. If travellers expect fellow travellers to be vaccinated, it makes sense that the flight staff serving them need to be vaccinated too.

Image via The Globe and Mail

It is becoming increasingly clear that fully vaccinated staff will likely become a prerequisite for the entire travel industry, a view Qantas CEO Alan Joyce shared recently on CNN.

“Aviation isn’t the industry for you,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, regarding workers who refuse to get vaccinated. 

Vaccinated staff rebuild brand trust

Airline brands are amorphous and need to change with the times to stay relevant. COVID-19 has dealt a huge blow to trust in the travel industry, which is perceived as a spreader of all things, good and bad. While many societies are opening up, international borders remain shut. If we are to rebuild trust in travel, airlines will do well to have clear mandates for staff to get vaccinated. These cannot be ambiguous or half-hearted appeals. Articulate messages from the top leadership combined with measures to encourage fully vaccinated airline staff are the way to go.

In the 6X Airline Brand Model that I’ve shared in my book, SOAR, I share that Brand eXecution matters: This means that over time, airline brands need to take measures that build brand trust. In the past, that may have been on-time performance or luxurious cabins. At the start of COVID-19, it was aircraft sanitisation measures. Going forward, it will be about fully vaccinated airline staff.

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