When our borders finally reopen to international leisure travel, airlines will need to change the way they do business if they're aiming to get Australians to travel overseas as long as the coronavirus pandemic is uncontained.
The Lufthansa Group has just announced several new benefits that go a long way in that direction, designed to restore confidence among air travellers. All customers on Lufthansa's European routes in coming months will travel with a "general return flight guarantee", a promise of a return flight to Germany, Austria or Switzerland with Lufthansa Group airlines, if necessary by a repatriation flight. That affects not only those flying aboard Lufthansa but also Swiss and Austrian airlines, part of the same group. The general return flight guarantee applies on Lufthansa Group flights booked between June 25th until the end of August, with a return date up to the end of January 2021.
Passengers who travel on an Economy Classic and Business Saver ticket have another layer of protection when they fly with the group via an "all-round carefree package". If the traveller is prevented from entering their destination country due to coronavirus symptoms or after a positive result from a coronavirus test, the cost of the quarantine or medical return transport will be covered by AXA Partners insurance. In addition, expenses for hotel accommodation foregone due to quarantine and cancellation costs for unused hotel stays and tours would also be reimbursed. Economy and Business Flex flyers will have a "Bring me Home Now" option, a guarantee of the fastest possible return flight to Germany, Austria or Switzerland at no additional cost.
Commenting on Lufthansa's news, Christina Foerster, Member of the Board Customer & Corporate Responsibility writes "With this new and so far unique offer, we want to help ensure that our guests can spend their summer holidays in Europe as carefree as possible".
While these initiatives are aimed at the Lufthansa Group's primary European market based in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and no practical value for the majority of Australian travellers, they address some of the nagging concerns that must be overcome to restore trust in the airline industry.
Confidence among air travellers has been one of the casualties of the pandemic. Many Australians were stranded in distant places when the pandemic struck and airlines ceased operations. The only alternative for many was a charter flight home, often at enormous cost. Many more have found themselves unable to travel on booked flights this year due to the pandemic. As well as a patchy response to the issue of refunds and credits for air tickets, bordering on corporate larceny in some cases, airlines need to reassure flyers that they'll be taken care of if their travel plans are disrupted by coronavirus.
"What happens if I test positive and can't get to where I'm supposed to be? What if I have to go into quarantine at my destination? How will I get home again if I need to in a hurry?" – these are questions that Australia's travel insurers have yet to answer, and the Lufthansa initiative ticks all those boxes.
For Aussies, whose travels take us far from home, the first airline to adopt Lufthansa's initiative is going to be on a winner.