WestJet puts a human touch on travel safety

The airline's new "Safety Above All" umbrella puts cleaning measures in the context of its "caring" positioning.
WESTJET- an Alberta Partnership-WestJet- Safety above all

WestJet is trying to entice people to consider travelling again, positioning its new safety measures within its existing brand pillar of providing care for its passengers.

Between ongoing travel restrictions, months of severely impacted revenue and the ongoing aversion consumers are expected to have for traveling, the ascent out of the current business situation for airlines is quite turbulent. The International Air Transport Association predicts global revenues will fall by 55% compared to 2019.

However, the main factors in terms of getting travellers to take to the skies again appear to be obvious: safety, cleaning and hygiene, according to Rob Daintree, director of marketing at WestJet.

That is what ultimately led to WestJet’s latest campaign about its travel hygiene measures under its new “Safety Above All” umbrella, a key brand pillar that will detail what its customers can expect when travelling to ensure their health and safety.

The campaign consists of a series of videos that describe the measures the airline is taking, which include wiping down surfaces at airline kiosks and check-in counters, at-boarding temperature checks and on-board seat distancing that removes the ability to book certain seats on different aircrafts. Staff are wearing masks and gloves, and can wear things like gowns, face shields or eye protection at their own discretion. WestJet has also implemented “aircraft fogging,” a cleaning process that disinfects the aircraft interior using a hydrogen peroxide-based solution cleaner.

The videos, created with agency Rethink, appear on WestJet’s digital, social and direct channels.

In late May, an Ipsos poll found that even if they were allowed, only 20% of Canadians surveyed would be likely to travel outside Canada this year, while 50% said they wouldn’t travel internationally (37% said they’re open to domestic travel). At the time the poll was taken, air travel was down 95% globally.

Travel experts have said that while travel incentives airlines and hotels are offering present enticing options – such as better pricing, room upgrades, resort credits and flight travel vouchers – COVID-19 remains an apparent risk. Some companies are no longer offering travel insurance to cover the cost if a Canadian gets sick abroad, for instance – another disincentive to travelling.

“When you look at that fulsome travel experience, the air carrier part of that experience continues to remain the number one thing that we need to be focusing on as an airline community,” Daintree says. “[We need] to ensure that we actively communicate all of the wonderful, important and critical things that we’re doing to keep our guests feeling safe and secure on board.”

Daintree says the campaign addresses the challenge of enticing people to travel, told from the perspective of its people. Not only do they have “deep technical expertise in these matters,” Daintree says, but it fits with WestJet’s existing brand positioning.

The videos show WestJet staff explaining the safety and hygiene measures in their own words, breaking down the process for temperature checks and seat distancing.

“As the ‘caring’ airline, with humanity at its core, we wanted to tell our story through the voice of our people – those who you’d be engaging with over the course of your travel experience,” he says. “When we look at our core brand pillars, care is absolutely a foundational brand attribute within WestJet. And with that comes humanity behind the brand, as well. We wanted to make sure humanity was front and centre.”

All of WestJet’s international routes, as well as 40 domestic routes, remain cancelled until at least July 4. WestJet announced an update to its cancellation policy last week, offering cash refunds for travellers that cancelled trips to cities in the U.S. or U.K. due to the pandemic, the first major Canadian airline to offer refunds instead of credit.

Last month, Air Canada began ensuring Canadians that it’s “ready for takeoff” in a new communications push that leans on its “Canadian” values of resiliency and similarly highlights safety measures ahead of a new summer schedule.