Dubai: Etihad Airways’ digital travel platform has a role to play in facilitating passenger movement and shortening waiting times, even as many countries drop Covid-related travel restrictions, says Dubai’s digital manager airline company.
“There are only three stations on the Etihad network that have no restrictions, which means that all other stations – north of 90% – still have an element of restrictions or proof of travel that our passengers must provide,” said Frank Meyer, Chief Digital Officer at Etihad Airways.
“The rules have started to change, but it’s important to recognize that things could be different tomorrow,” Meyer said.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline launched “Verified To Fly” on its global network last year after the platform proved popular with customers. The platform, which allows travelers to validate their COVID-19 travel documents before arriving at the airport, is currently available for a large majority of Etihad flights.
Nearly half of our travelers use it, Meyer said. “We will continue to offer it because the environment is still dynamic and we all don’t know how it will continue.”
The digital manager added that while Europe and North America had removed most restrictions, the same could not be said for Asia. “Some have (imposed) even more restrictions, especially China,” Meyer said.
Passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific will only reach 68% of pre-COVID-19 levels in 2022, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), due to the slow removal of restrictions on international travel and the likelihood of further national restrictions during COVID-19 outbreaks.
Meyer said Etihad was considering expanding the travel services provided on “Verified To Fly”, without providing further details.
IATA Travel Pass
Before airlines came up with their own travel platforms, IATA’s “Travel Pass” digital health passport was hailed by industry players as a way to promote travel during the pandemic. Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways were among the first airlines in the region to implement the platform.
“We haven’t pushed hard on the travel pass, but we’ve expanded routes where we accept it and will continue to do so,” Meyer said. “Usage of Etihad’s network is very low as we offer verified flights, and the question is whether the travel pass will become a travel standard in the long term, as the product itself has encountered many problems. startup at the beginning.”
Meyer said two separate platforms don’t necessarily compete with each other. “As long as there is something that will make it easier for passengers to travel, we will do it and beyond.”
Stay up to date
In the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 rules, it is necessary for Etihad to stay abreast of the latest developments. “We have a team that keeps all the rules up to date and then checks them against traveler requirements,” Meyer said.
Although Etihad and some global peers have rapidly developed and implemented travel platforms, this has not been the case everywhere. “Many airlines are required by law to take responsibility for passenger health documentation, but most carriers push it on travelers,” Meyer said.
Building a platform from scratch means additional expense and that is not acceptable for most airlines in today’s environment.
“If you look at the cost pressure on airlines, especially with high fuel prices, I’m not 100% confident that all airlines will offer this service,” Meyer said. “If an airline hasn’t done this yet, it’s unlikely to do so in the future, as travel has become easier now.”
Travel isn’t the only area where Etihad is going digital – the airline has big plans to revamp its platforms to make it easier to interact with customers.
Meyer said Etihad will be able to store searches made by customers on the airline’s website and mobile app. “Passengers will be able to interact with customer service on all channels like chat, WhatsApp and phone – we will be able to keep information up to date, so it doesn’t need to be repeated.”
Etihad will also have the ability to market all of its products and options “seamlessly” through all channels. “The breadth and depth of our product, including all options, will be sold across all channels, not just live and web – this means customers will have more access to our product.”