Wellness Ambassadors. There: I’ve said it. It started with chicken edamame salad and activewear and this is the absurd conclusion. Wellness ambassadors aboard flights at a time when airlines can barely afford to be in the air (don’t believe us: check how many are sending their planes off to graveyards in Nevada and Alice Springs).
That’s one cynics take anyway. The other point of view is that this is an essential service that will soon be as important as tray tables if an airline wants to stay relevant in an ever more health-conscious market. But we digress. Before we get ourselves into any hot kombucha we’ll hand you over to Etihad for the direct down low.
The Wellness Ambassadors come as part of Etihad Airways’ ‘Etihad Wellness’ program – a comprehensive health and hygiene programme and customer guide which, as Etihad Airways recently announced, “builds on the stringent measures already put in place by the airline to deal with COVID-19.”
“The programme will be championed by the introduction of specially trained Wellness Ambassadors, a first in the industry, who will provide essential travel health information and care so guests can fly with greater peace of mind.”
“Etihad Wellness initiatives will be communicated through an easy-to-use online guide highlighting the high standards of cleanliness, health and hygiene being applied at every stage of the customer journey,” the airline continued. “This includes culinary hygiene at the airline’s catering facilities and food testing laboratory, aircraft cabin deep-cleaning, check-in, health screening, boarding, inflight experience and product, crew interaction, arrival, and ground transportation.”
“For those needing more specific and personalised information, skilled Wellness Ambassadors can be contacted directly 24/7 by emailing [email protected],” Etihad added. “This dedicated multi-lingual team will offer reassurance to customers by sharing advice on travel wellbeing and details of the health and sanitisation measures being implemented throughout their journey.”
Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “Providing for our guests, and their wellbeing, is one of Etihad’s core values, and we have a responsibility to protect them, to keep them fully informed, and to provide even greater levels of genuine warmth and personal care.”
“Once travel restrictions to and from the UAE are lifted, and the airline resumes an expanded network of international flights, Etihad will introduce Wellness Ambassadors on board, complementing the roles performed by other Cabin Crew, and providing an enhanced level of customer care focused on health and wellness inflight,” Mr Douglas added.
DMARGE reached out to frequent flyer expert and founder of Flight Hacks, Immanuel Debeer, to get his take. Will this prove a publicity stunt or a genuine attraction for customers?
On one hand, Immanuel said this is a smart response to 2020 from Etihad: “Let’s face it, almost everyone is having a tough time right now but airlines are the ones really getting a thorough beating thanks to the pandemic and hysteria that comes with it.”
“That means it’s only natural they are trying everything in the book to a) survive this sh*tstorm of epic proportions and b) convince all the Karens of the world that flying is indeed still safe.”
On the other hand, Immanuel also told us, “I do think they are taking things too far. A ‘wellness ambassador’? What’s their job? Standing outside the lavatories with a checklist to ask guests brutally honest questions such as: did you wash your hands? Most worryingly is the fact that clearly there’s a need for these health ambassadors because humanity has lost all common sense during lockdown.”
“I think it’s time for this pandemic to end because from what I can tell, the airline marketing teams are running out of clever ideas to reassure the general public of their safety on board.”
We then asked Immanuel whether this kind of initiative could show up in Australia. His response?
“Highly unlikely! Australians are too easy-going for this kinda nonsense. If only our politicians got the memo and started opening borders between states that clearly don’t have any community transmission; that’s a rant for another day.”
With both Qantas and Virgin Australia having both made positive steps to prioritise passengers’ mental health pre 2020, and both Qantas and Virgin Australia now being forced to drastically cut costs (but also differentiate themselves from each other) it will be interesting to see, in the coming years, which directions they go in.
Only time and silent retreat bookings will tell.