Reestablishing Confidence in Your Travel Program (feat. Delta Air Lines' Dr. Henry Ting and Bob Somers)

March 24, 2022 00:28:12
Reestablishing Confidence in Your Travel Program (feat. Delta Air Lines' Dr. Henry Ting and Bob Somers)
Your Window Seat
Reestablishing Confidence in Your Travel Program (feat. Delta Air Lines' Dr. Henry Ting and Bob Somers)
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Show Notes

On March 1, 2022, Travel Incorporated's SVP of Strategic Partnerships, Tony Peter, had the opportunity to sit down and host a livestream event with Delta Air Lines' Chief Health Officer, Dr. Henry Ting, and Bob Somers, SVP of Global Sales. Together, these three discuss the industry as we approach the remainder of 2022. For your convenience, we've consolidated the stream into this episode of Your Window Seat.
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:16 Hello and welcome to another exciting episode of your window seat, where we at travel, Inc. Discuss the topics you care about most in this ever-changing business travel industry. I'm Hillary, Patrick, and folks. Have we got an episode for you earlier this month? T I senior vice president of strategic partnerships. Tony Peter had the opportunity to sit down and host a live stream event with Delta airlines, chief health officer, Dr. Henry ting and Bob summers, senior vice president of global sales. The full live stream is available to watch now on traveling.com, but for your ease and convenience, we've consolidated that stream into today's episode. So with that in mind, sit back, relax and enjoy your window seat. Speaker 2 00:01:03 Good afternoon. And thank you for joining today's travel incorporated live stream featuring Bob summers and Dr. Henry ting. Our discussion today will be moderated by our very own Tony Peter, and the three of them. We'll discuss the latest in the travel industry as we approach the remainder of the year. And with that, I'll pass it off to Tony just to get started. Speaker 3 00:01:24 Thank you, welcome all of our live streaming audience and those of you who choose to watch this at a later time, uh, we appreciate your interest and, uh, we're here today to discuss the advancement of confidence and travel. You know, travel is a personal freedom that we've all been denied to some degree since the beginning of this pandemic. And we're excited to see that things are starting to open up a bit. Uh, the latest poll just came out from, uh, GBTA, the global business travel association showing the confidence index has increased from, uh, last month where it was at 64%. Uh, and the poll conducted in February indicated it had risen to 82%. So those are all good things. And today I'm joined by two, uh, people that are very, very important to us at Delta airlines. Uh, they're going to help field the questions, uh, that we put together. Welcome both Speaker 4 00:02:18 Like Tony, please do meet here. Speaker 3 00:02:20 Our first question today will be few Dr. Tang, as we all know, you've been a huge part of Delta's role throughout the pandemic, both for your own employees and for the customers. What was it that interested you to join Delta, especially given this was an industry first role. And can you also perhaps touch on some of the surprising findings or lessons that you can share? Speaker 5 00:02:43 Sure. It's a pleasure to be here with all of you and Tony. Thank you for the invitation. Um, you know, I think, uh, it's a great question. I mean, you think about an airline and a health care facility and you think there could be nothing similar between them, but I, I would beg to disagree because I think it really comes to culture, values and purpose. And that's what I found very similar for the people at Mayo clinic and the people at Delta airlines. So if I could explain a little bit on that, um, at Mayo clinic, um, our core values were the best interest of the patient where the only interest to be considered and that guided every single decision we made, whether as a business or as your doctor or nurse taking care of you. And similarly at Delta airlines, um, the core value at Delta airlines, we Peter, we put our people first, they're our number one priority. Speaker 5 00:03:35 And even during the worst of the pandemic for the last two years, uh, our people and their safety and their health was our number one priority. We put people over profits and to get us through the pandemic and survive and to be in a position to thrive coming out of the pandemic, we have three simple strategies to guide what we did. Number one, protect our people that included employees and customers and their health and safety. Number two, protect our business, make sure that we made the right decisions as a business and financially to protect our cash. And number three was to protect our future, protecting our future meant being ready. Um, when travel does come back that we're ready to deliver. Um, and, and, you know, the switch, um, to from Mayo clinic to Delta was actually quite seamless for me. Um, and the reason I did it, I think, was the opportunity to make a bigger impact and to change the world by that, I mean at Mayo clinic, I was a cardiologist. Speaker 5 00:04:37 I took care of people with heart disease and did surgeries and procedures on them. When they had advanced heart disease at Delta airlines, I can have a much bigger impact because we have 8,000 global employees, 200,000 dependents who are on a health insurance plans and 200 million passengers who we can impact. And I think the most surprising thing I've learned in the last year at Delta airlines has been the resilience of our people. Um, you know, despite the worst of the pandemic and the years and the twists and turns, our people have been very resilient and have always come through. Speaker 3 00:05:13 I want to stay with you for another moment, if we can, as an advisor to Delta, as well as advocating on behalf of air travel, what are your views on pre flight testing and pivoting away from masking? Speaker 5 00:05:25 Yeah. So two very important questions. Tony, pre-flight testing a masking. I think what you're going to see is that the requirements for masking and pre-flight testing will change and pivot from what is currently a federal mandate, a federal requirement by the TSA or the federal government to one of a local decision by states or local authorities or counties, as you know, the airports are in the jurisdiction of counties to one of an individual preference choice and responsibility. So if you think about, you know, when we put this, these restrictions in for the pandemic, it was done always with a thought that we would lift these restrictions as early as we can. Um, and what we're knowing let's see now is a pandemic is clearly transitioning from something affecting the world to probably a seasonal virus. Um, and we're seeing that coming out of the Omicron surge, um, the case counts have dropped rapidly to preop Macron levels. Speaker 5 00:06:29 We've also seen as a silver lining that the crown drain, although very infectious has been associated with much milder disease, particularly for those of us who are vaccinated or received a booster shot. Secondly, the science has changed. What I mean by that is that we know that vaccines don't prevent every infection. And it's probably not that important that we prevent every single infection if they're just a mild cold or flu, but the vaccines are very important. The best tool we have to prevent severe disease, complications, hospitalizations, and death. Lastly, I think the concept that we need to be, uh, educating and communicating on is that one way masking works. What I mean by that is if you feel that you need to wear a mask because you're vulnerable at risk, if you yourself wear a high quality mask by K and 95, and then you five or an equivalent mask, you will be safe and protected even if no one around you is masking. Speaker 3 00:07:31 Excellent. I think everybody's excited to have a little time away from the basket. It's nice to see people smile again to, uh, you know, they were before, but you weren't necessarily, you had to rely on their eyes. Let's do a gate change. Let's shift to Bob for a moment here, focusing on the way forward. We want to thank Delta for the partnership over this, this terrible stretch of time and your ability to communicate to our joint customers. Our mutual customers were really reliant in need of a lot of information. And Delta did a great job with that. We've all learned a lot and we really look forward to what's next. How is Delta preparing for the readiness of full-scale return to travel? Speaker 4 00:08:11 Yeah, first of all, Tony, thank you to all of you on the line today, live stream today, whether you're a traveling employee or a mutual customer, thank you for the opportunity. Uh, more importantly, thank you for traveling, incredible partner. We were just talking about this before. We've been partners with traveling for over 40 years. They are an elite agency in our portfolio, and I go back so far. I used to make sales calls on traveling way back when so tremendous partner and in times like this, and for the last two years, two and a half years, partnerships have been everything. So thank you for the opportunity today and thank you for everything that traveling does to support Delta. Uh, you know, you said something at the beginning, Tony, I will tell you that when this all happened on March 9th, 2009, 2020, uh, we had our advisory board right here in this room and we said, what? Speaker 4 00:08:58 We didn't even know what we were facing. I was like, what are we, what should we be ready for? What do we need to be focused on? And our customers told us, our advisory board told us, you need to be flexible. You need to provide us with communication. You need to be real and authentic. And, and obviously the flexibility was key with things like frequent flyer, status being, you know, put, uh, extended and, uh, being more flexible with waivers and tickets and travel credits and things that were our customers felt like we had their back. And I think the, the, um, the communication to your point never communicate so much and never worked so hard for so little money for the last two years. But it was really critical because what we found as a sales organization was we were now selling safety, cleanliness and confidence. Speaker 4 00:09:40 So while the revenue was not there, we had to make sure we did everything we could to our customers, that we made sure that they felt comfortable, that when they did come back, uh, that they, that we were going to be ready for them. And that's the first message. I think even though the last two years have been some of the most challenging in my career, uh, in the first two year, two months of 2 22 are volatile and challenging as Henry will, will tell you, but the, the, the message we are delivering now is that the optimism, the sense of optimism is here and we are ready. Delta's ready when you're ready to come back and fly. And I think what we've been doing for the last couple of years and continue to do every day is build that readiness amongst our teams in the air, at the airports, um, in our communications, in everything we do, uh, building solutions for what our customer's expectations are. So when they come back, there's no surprises. We have their back. You know what? We really are looking at people now, as I'm coming back, I don't know what, I don't know, how do I find it? So I know that traveling has an incredible resource for their customers. So do we, whether it be delta.com or Delta fly ready? Speaker 3 00:10:42 Absolutely. We saw the same thing. So it's starting to come back fast and furious and, and that's a good thing. We've all been waiting for it. Um, you know, it's, we're all looking so forward to it. You mentioned the great work that Delta teams have been doing throughout the pandemic and your customers are becoming more confident. Can you please take us through what the travelers should expect in the inflight experience to help manage the travelers expectations? Speaker 4 00:11:07 We always talk about, listen, act, listen, listen to what your customers need. And we'd like for you to do act on that. And then listen again. And we've been doing that as a sales organization for 20 years. And so we did that as a company in this. So we really focused on what can we do to elevate and enhance the experience. So when our customers come back, they will see a different, different experience. So one thing that will not be different. And the one thing that will never be the focus will never come off as cleanliness and safety. A couple of things that we're really going to, we want to talk a little bit about is what they can expect that are new, is it relates to, and I would say sustainability, number one, it's not new, but the focus has been enhanced. A lot of times you would think you take your focus off our eye, off the ball on sustainability when you're dealing with all these other issues. Speaker 4 00:11:50 Quite frankly, it's been the opposite way for us. We have a new chief sustainability officer that we just hired two weeks ago, who is on the job there to Pam. Fletcher is amazing. Uh, we had her from general motors. She came over and joined us. She's going to be the architect along with Amelia DeLuca. Who's our vice-president that group of former sales, uh, leader. And they're really going to help us continue to chart the course on sustainability parts of that, where you can see that really be visible is on eliminating plastic and recycling. We are going to eliminate plastic on our airplanes. We are in the process of doing that right now. The focus has always been recycling, whether it be plastics when we have them, but, but food and recycling food and doing the things we can to be responsible citizens. And then last but not least the kind of, uh, uh, if you went on the experiences, the one thing we're never going to take our eye off is operational excellence. We have led the industry in every measurable objective for 15 years, and we intend to continue to do that because all of this is meaningless. If you can't, if you can't trust us and your customers, aren't, don't think we're reliable. Speaker 3 00:12:50 Well, one thing that has to always stay in play or the Biscoff cookies that can't go away, I think you'd get unanimous word from that. Thanks Bob. Back to you, Dr. Tang, how do you see the realistic approach to health and safety? As we believe new variants will continue to arise? Speaker 5 00:13:07 That's a great question, Tony. Um, you know, um, every pandemic that's affected our world has ended, uh, here to, for, um, some, some of the, um, diseases like polio, um, have been eradicated, um, by vaccines. Others have been, uh, become endemic as, um, the vaccines prevent the infection or prevent severe illness and disease like that. Or like influenza, you know, this, this virus, um, that's causing COVID is changing and evolving and mutating and pressure. They turn, learn to live with us, their hosts, um, uh, they're not intending to, uh, hurt us or kill all of us. Um, and this is part of the evolution of the virus and we have evolved and changed as well. So what do I mean by that? I mean that there will be future variants. I think you're right, Tony, this is not the last variant that we will see, but as we move forward in time, each success of variant has been less disruptive and more manageable as we learn to live with the virus. Speaker 5 00:14:12 If you think about the Macron surge and the prior surge Democrats, surge caused a lot more infections, but many fewer deaths and hospitalizations as a ratio of those who are infected. And it was so short, literally in six to seven weeks, it has come and gone. So in terms of disruption in our lives that are as well as our economy, our businesses, it was less. The other important thing to remember is unlike early 20, 20, we're at a point now in early 20, 22, 2 years later, that we have tools to manage this virus and to live with as far as that we didn't have in early 2020. So there are five very important tools I want to cover them. First, we have better and more vaccines where you're going to see is in the next few months, vaccines approved for children under the age of five, you're going to see very specific vaccines that are active against new variants. Speaker 5 00:15:13 And lastly, you've already seen the approval, uh, in, not in the us yet, but in Canada, some European countries, protein based factoring vaccines. So not based on a messenger RNA or DNA technology, these are the standard vaccines we've always made. It just took two years to make them, um, and that's made by companies like Novavax and Santa Fe and GSK. Second, you're going to see better and more therapeutics. So, you know, for those of us who've been exposed to the flu, you can take a pill called Tamiflu to prevent an infection or severe illness. We have those same medicines for COVID as well. And what you'll see by the summer is a rapid up ramping of the production. So that I do foresee maybe by as early as summer or fall, that most of us who are worried or think that we might be in high risk situations, we could carry some of these medicines that we can take them after a high risk exposure or at the first onset of a positive test or symptoms. Speaker 5 00:16:13 Number three, we have better and more testing, right? Just think about the test we have access to now rapid antigens, rapid PCR. You could do it at your own home and you get them pretty easily. Now, number four, better and more masks. We didn't have these high quality masks in early 2020. In fact, everyone was searching for them. And you were buying Massey to know if we're actually we're genuine. Now we have ample supply of masks that used in the hospitals and 95 K and nanny five or equivalents. And we talked about one way masking that you can protect yourself, even if no one else is mast. And lastly, very importantly is we will have better and more surveillance. So what I mean by that surveillance means epidemiologically. The scientists have learned to share information and data. Just think what we learned about, um, a crime in a matter of eight weeks, we would not have learned anything about a new variant in eight months in 2020. Speaker 5 00:17:15 And we learned all of this in eight weeks because scientists in South Africa founded scientists, UK continued the discoveries. Secondly, wastewater surveillance, the CDC has begun testing wastewater and many us cities and municipalities. You're asking me, why would you want to test wastewater? COVID virus is secreted in your waste in your fecal matter and waste. And if you test that wastewater from communities or areas, you can detect COVID in a community literally six, seven days before a causes, an outbreak or infections. So we take that in the wastewater. And for example, Boston, we could take action. We could find out where the wastewater came from and what mitigation is we can put in. I think, you know, all of this is pointing towards COVID is transitioning from a pandemic and an national public health emergency to a ordinary seasonal virus. Nope. Not much different than the flu or the common cold. Speaker 5 00:18:16 Uh, and that's a really good thing if you missed it, that's okay. Um, you know, but it is seeing that transition. I would ask each and every one of you, um, if I could ask you one thing is to show some patience and tolerance and kindness to others, because it took two years for all of us to windup our Springs to get to this stage. We were all very afraid and some of us are less afraid than others, but all of us are that different stage of unwinding that spring. So it shows some tiny tolerance and patience to your friends, family, relatives, communities, that everyone has to go on their own pace. And there are different stages on winding, but all of us are going to get there. So I appreciate that. Speaker 3 00:19:01 Excellent. We're going to turn it back now to a Tracy. Who's going to help us with today's Q and a session, uh, from things that have come in from those who are listening via the live stream. Speaker 2 00:19:10 Thank you, Tony. We'll now take a few questions from the audience members, a couple of initial questions that have come in. Uh, Bob, the first one I think is for you as all eyes are on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. How is Delta responding specifically with your partnership with the airflow? Speaker 4 00:19:28 It's a really good question. We, from, from our perspective, obviously the first thing we're looking at as the wellbeing safety wellbeing of our employees and our customers, and we we've been in touch, we do have a small sales force in that area. We do not fly to the Ukraine and Moscow nonstop. We do that through a relationship with Aeroflot and we have withdrawn that really, that co-chair relationship with Aeroflot. What that means is that we will, our code has been lifted off of any flights through Moscow and Aeroflot code has been lifted off any of our flights through our connecting gateways of JFK and lax, and obviously accommodating any passengers that we are there that were, you know, affected by that change. But we are watching it as the whole world is with concern and prayer, uh, for safety and peace. Uh, but we are, our customers will not be put in harm's way, um, into those parts of the world. Speaker 5 00:20:21 Tracy, if I could add to that, uh, Bob's absolutely right. Uh, we acted immediately within one day of the Russian invasion, uh, into Ukraine and stop the Aeroflot co-chair, uh, having co-chair for flight, uh, ticket purchases. Number two, although we continue to fly to Asia and can you have those flights, those flights used to go over Russian airspace and now we're diverting them because we don't want to have any risk to our passengers. And our airplanes have been identified by flying over a Russian airspace. Speaker 2 00:20:53 Thank you for that. Um, so Dr. Ting, you had mentioned be kind and unwind the spring or how we're all unwinding the Springs at different paces. Can you talk a little bit more specifically about how you're messaging that, um, in a way to the travelers? So they feel a sense of comfort. Speaker 5 00:21:12 That's a great question. And there's not a simple answer to this. Um, you know, emotional wellbeing and stress is probably one of the, uh, things we're going to have to deal with coming out of the pandemic. Um, you know, it's estimated that if you're a major employer traveling Inc, or Delta airlines that perhaps 70 to 80% of your employee base has suffered or experienced one loss from the pandemic and to some level emotional stress or anxiety. And I think it starts with one recognition of that, that there, that there's something wrong with you, that this is actually what many of us are experiencing. Um, but it's, it's an investment in, um, resiliency. You know, we used to say, you can get through anything with grit and perseverance, if you can power through it. Well, what we learned is you can't power through two years of a global pandemic resiliency means doing well and feeling well when you shouldn't be in the face of uncertainty and adversity, which is what we faced for the last two years. Speaker 5 00:22:16 And we have to first acknowledge that almost all of our employees have used up their resiliency tank. You know, Bob is one of the most resilient people I know, but he's probably a little less patient today than he was two years ago. So I think it's a realization that our people need to have that tank rebuilt. And there are many things, many approaches and ways to do that. And we're doing that at Delta airlines, um, small things like, uh, being grateful saying thank you, um, allowing time to reflect, um, and taking away things that are not necessary, you know, w we're very attuned to that because Delta airlines in the past year, we've hired now 9,000 new people. We're building them into our culture and our values. And we want to make sure that when they come back into the new normal, it's not the old normal, and how do we keep the best of what we learned in the last two years. Um, but as well as work differently and think differently Speaker 3 00:23:13 Before we close out today, I'd love to hear from both of you on this one. I want you to tell me about your last trip, your most recent trip and the personal experiences. And I'll go first. Uh, I had the privilege last week of two Delta non-stops, uh, between here and key west. Uh, and I had the joy of being on an Airbus, uh, a or 3, 3 19. And I've got to tell you, there is an appreciable difference in how comfortable the seats are, as well as the overall design of the aircraft. And the configuration overheads are bigger. It made for a much more pleasant journey, and it's not a long journey, uh, but it was very, very comfortable. Tell me where the two of you have gone last. Speaker 4 00:23:54 So I, I, to be honest with you, Tony, I've been traveling since the first week of the pandemic. Literally, it's what we spend a lot of time. All the sales people spend a lot of time on day trips flying to the airports we call them. Those would be in the agents group. Remember the old fam trips. We were doing fam trips at every airport, showing agents and corporate travel managers. Here's what we're doing with electrostatic spraying. Here's what we're doing with air filtration systems. Seeing you actually visited, you could talk about it, put it on infographics until they see the airport and see the social distancing and the thing. So I traveled, I've traveled hundreds of times. Um, my last trip was to the beach. We would go to the beach a lot. Uh, it is to Panama city beach we're down on the Gulf coast. Speaker 4 00:24:35 It's one thing. This me is, is that 8 3 20 now, which tells me that pre pandemic. It was a 70 seat RJ. Now it's an 8, 3 20. So a lot of people want to go down to the beach. Um, but it just, it was really, I understand it, it it's because it's comfortable because I know what to expect. And you know what, Dr. Tim I'll tell you for those of you who haven't traveled, the mask will be different, but no different than when you're in a store or in a restaurant or wherever you are when you're wearing a mask, you just obviously get very used to it. And the comfort of everyone wearing the mask on the airplane gives you a comfort level that there's no concern. Uh, and I know that we've spent a lot of time with that, uh, making sure customers understand why it's still important. Speaker 4 00:25:17 So other than that, it was, it was, it was wonderful. I think there's a renewed sense of energy and exuberance about people traveling. I'm always on a flight sitting next to somebody saying, when's the last time you traveled. And they said two years on their smiles this big. And they just, they're just glad to be back out. The pent up demand is significant. And now I do have my first international flight next week. I have not been on one yet. So I'll have to report back to you on that, go into Mexico city for GBTA Latin America. And I'm actually really excited about that too, to work through those protocols and experienced that as well. Speaker 3 00:25:48 Excellent. Speaker 5 00:25:50 Um, I just came back from an international trip. Um, I, um, last week I was in Paris, France and flew directly from JFK to Charles de Gaulle on our new Airbus three 30 Neil. It's a beautiful plane. Um, I was in a suite and I used our flight ready app, which told me as a vaccinated person. I, all I needed to do was verify my passport, upload my CDC vaccine card and complete a French government entry form, uh, uh, testing that had those symptoms and giving my address. Um, I landed, it was very easy to get off the plane. Um, had a wonderful time in Paris, actually felt like what pandemic. Uh, there was actually very few masks to be found in Paris, France. Um, and I flew back to JFK and landed through a JFK. I could tell you that the airports are busy. Um, you know, I, the lines are getting longer actually in a clear line for 15 minutes before I got to the front. But I think given what all of us have gone through the last two years, we shouldn't be complaining about align right now. Right. Speaker 3 00:26:52 That's the last thing. Yeah. Speaker 3 00:26:54 Well, excellent. Uh, I want to say that it's very rewarding to have a conversation like this. I think everybody should feel confident, uh, that we've really turned a corner on this. It's very, very safe and people should be comfortable in wanting to get out. Uh, I want to thank all of our viewers today for tuning in, and for those of you who watch this, uh, at a delayed time, I want to thank you for your participation and your interest. Uh, definitely want to thank Bob and Dr. Ting for your conversation today, and, uh, want to suggest to everybody to at this point, look forward to what we're going to do to keep climbing and to think TCI, Speaker 2 00:27:35 Thank you for joining. We at travel, Inc, are thrilled to have the opportunity to share the views of both Dr. Ting and Bob summers of Delta airlines. Thank you so much for your time and your expertise today. This now concludes our session. Speaker 6 00:27:52 Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 1 00:27:55 Thank you for listening to this episode of your window seat, hosted by travel, Inc. To learn more about TEI, you can find us at our website, traveling.com or follow us on any of our social media channels. We look forward to the next episode and as always at travel incorporated, travel safe.

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