Ready for take off
Travel Courier chats with Sunwing’s COO Andrew Dawson about restarting operations, how the airline has adapted to the new normal and what agents should know about winter bookings
This has been a challenging time for those in the travel industry. How are you feeling since resuming service on Nov. 6?
We’re thrilled to be back in the skies and helping Canadians make a safe and responsible return to travel under our wing.
It’s been a long few months without travel and we know that many people are eager to get back to the tropics. We couldn’t be happier to make that possible, and are thrilled that we have been able to resume service to Punta Cana and Cancun from Toronto and Montreal, with flights to Varadero set to begin on Dec. 13 and more gateways and destinations to hopefully be announced soon.
What lessons has the airline learned during the pandemic or how has the pandemic forced you to alter course as a company?
The travel landscape continues to change and our customers’ needs are evolving too. This has been a truly unprecedented time in the travel industry. There have been many challenges along the way, but we will come out on the other end of this stronger than ever before.
We have used the past seven months as an opportunity to reset and consider how we, as a company, can better serve our customers’ needs, in support of our mission to do more than any other travel provider and make the vacation experience friction-free, from start to ﬁnish. Our focus has been on driving a customer-centric and personalized experience, built on new platforms of innovation and modern technology.
Also, enhancing our health and safety standards has been a big focus. To help customers travel with peace of mind, we have spent the past few months implementing our Safe with Sunwing commitment, which has the highest Canadian health and safety standards in place throughout the entire vacation experience. From the moment customers check-in at the airport to their flight, their transfers from the airport to the resort, their time in destination and their journey home, their health and safety is our top priority.
Have measures like complimentary Manulife COVID-19 travel insurance and Safe with Sunwing helped bookings?
We have had a very positive response from our travel agent partners and customers when looking at our Safe with Sunwing Commitment and complimentary COVID-19 insurance offering. Travellers want to feel confident that we’re keeping them safe when they travel as they plan their much-anticipated return to the tropics.
Winter is coming! Is there a glimmer of hope for winter bookings despite the ongoing government self-isolation regulations upon return? A recent Sunwing survey showed Canadians are ready to travel…
Yes, our recent survey revealed some good news for the travel industry, indicating that Canadians are ready to get back to travel, safely and responsibly. With colder days and winter weather around the corner, and the toll the pandemic has taken on mental well-being, we’re confident that Canadians are going to be looking to head back to the tropics – and we’re ready to help them make their return to the skies.
How have travellers’ priorities for vacations shifted during this time?
In this time of uncertainty, Canadians are looking for a seamless and hassle-free vacation. That’s where Sunwing comes in – we’re able to offer vacations that are truly frictionless from start to finish, with the highest Canadian standards every step of the way. In addition to health and safety, we also know that travel insurance is important for customers – which is why as part of our Safe with Sunwing commitment we’re offering complimentary Manulife COVID-19 travel insurance on select vacation packages booked between September 17, 2020 and November 30, 2020; for travel between October 16, 2020 and December 31, 2021. The insurance is designed to cover emergency medical and quarantine costs associated with COVID-19 in the unlikely event that a customer contracts the virus while travelling.
Insurance covers up to $200,000 in medical insurance covering expenses related to a positive COVID-19 test, including quarantine costs of up to $150 per day for an individual and $300 per day for a family, for a maximum of up to 14 days and a total of $4,200 in quarantine costs. The coverage also includes $500 in interruption insurance coverage should the Government of Canada’s travel advisory for international destinations move from Level 3 to Level 4. Full terms and conditions can be found on our website.
In your opinion, what is standing in the way of recovery for the Canadian industry?
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has impacted the travel industry in an unprecedented way. That said, the travel industry will get through this. Canadians are eager to get back to travel safely and responsibly and, at Sunwing, we have spent months developing new health and safety protocols and investing in new technologies to get ready for the ‘new world’ of travel that is slowly emerging.
We also know that the government is exploring rapid testing options right now, starting in Calgary. We think this is a step in the right direction to help the Canadian travel industry recover and help travellers get back to the skies. We hope to see more widespread rapid testing nation-wide in the near future, as this is a key element to the travel industry’s rebound.
Is there anything you want to share about what Sunwing is doing to kickstart travel?
We are working hard to invest in new technologies and innovation to make travel more easy and seamless than ever before. We’re also offering travellers incredible vacation deals and opportunities to work and study from the tropics with our ‘Work from the Beach’ offer, where they can trade in their home office for a beach view.
Is it still possible for clients to have a “normal” vacation?
Yes. We’ve spent the past few months re-imagining our customers’ vacation experience to ensure that they can enjoy a memorable and hassle-free vacation from start to finish. With our Safe with Sunwing commitment in place throughout the entire vacation experience – from the moment they check-in to throughout their time in destination and their journey home – all customers have to focus on is enjoying their getaway.
Do you have anything to add?
We’re excited to help our customers – past, present and future – return to the skies this fall and winter, and are confident in the seamless, safe and memorable experience we will provide them at every step.