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Airlines around the world are trying to make their customers feel safe enough to return to flying.
Etihad Airways has taken things a step further, by introducing in June the launch of Etihad Wellness, which it describes as “an expanded and more comprehensive health and hygiene programme and customer guide.”
The champions of this new program are called wellness ambassadors, “who will provide essential travel health information and care so guests can fly with greater peace of mind.”
Bekki Abernethy, 33, who is one of these ambassadors, does her best to make customers feel comfortable. During boarding, she looks out for guests who may be nervous, and she’s there to listen and absorb any concern that they may be feeling during a pandemic.
“So I will ensure that our families, children, and elderly guests are comfortable and create the atmosphere where the guests know that we have their well being as our top priority. And then throughout the journey, I will be responsible for ensuring our sanitization and wellness standards are being maintained to their high standard and social distancing is being practiced. And then at the end of the day, I can go home and sleep well knowing that I’ve kept all our guests safe, well, and happy,” she said.
Abernethy said that in the current fluid situation Etihad is responding rapidly and updating its operating procedures accordingly, so before she reports for duty she must make sure that she’s “read through and understood the latest updates in order to deliver the best practices on board.”
Abernethy has been working in the cabin crew with Etihad for nine years and has worked in economy class, business class, and now, for the past seven years, in first class. She says that it’s been absolutely delightful and that you’d have to really love your job to work in it for nine years.
Right now, the biggest challenge she faces is communication.
“So, until I had to wear a mask, I didn’t know how much I rely on my smile for communication. So to try and express the same friendliness and openness through just my eyes has been quite difficult. So I’ve been learning to ‘smize,’ as Tyra Banks would say. But I believe that nearly every other guests’ challenge that we face on board the aircraft can be solved with empathy and understanding.”
A majority of the cabin crew of Etihad was not flying for three months beginning on March 25. During a portion of this time, Abernethy was able to complete wellness training through online modules. The modules have also continued on a weekly basis even as these crew members have gotten back to flying since the situation is fluid and they need to stay updated on possible new issues that come up.
One wellness ambassador is available on every Etihad flight, and they can also be found throughout the airport touch points at Abu Dhabi International Airport. In addition, customers can chat with a wellness ambassador 24/7 online for information about international directives and developments, as well as for tips on travel safety.