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Bastian Neumann-Semerow has flown a lot more than most people in the past nine months.
In real life he works for Miles & More, Lufthansa Group’s frequent flyer and awards program, where he looks after public relations. In addition, Neumann-Semerow is part of a special customer communications project team, set up to produce coronavirus-relevant content.
But as Lufthansa Group began to reboot its schedule, the team pitched a new series called Flying Reporter to bosses as a way to demonstrate first-hand how the flying experience had changed.
“We came up with the idea to develop a behind the scenes video for Lufthansa customers, to show them how traveling during the coronavirus pandemic works,” Neumann-Semerow said. “A news format was a good format to quickly and efficiently communicate changes in procedure.” The pitch was accepted, and as he was already experienced in front of the camera he was picked to front the project.
Seven videos have been produced so far. The first, From check-in counter to the gate, was published in early June. In a later episode, he’s filmed taking a pre-flight Covid test at Frankfurt airport.
The reporter also traveled from Copenhagen to Madrid via Frankfurt, to showcase new connecting procedures and lounge etiquette. During the making of the “Connecting flights during Covid-19” episode, business travelers were asking if they could sleep at the airport, or if there was a hotel open, did they need more time for the transfer, among other questions.
The most recent episode, yet to be published, will feature a Eurowings long-haul flight to Barbados — including a two-night stay at a five-star hotel on the island.
It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
To be fair, the job isn’t all play. While a Caribbean break sounds glamorous, Neumann-Semerow is under pressure to hit deadlines and is editing and packaging videos soon after landing, or during the return flight.
The luxury Barbados stay was an exception, too, as destinations visited tend to involve return flights that same day. “The hardest part is turning back so quickly. I need to produce everything while traveling, so there’s not much time. Of course I’m prepared for filming, but then you need to edit quickly. I’d prefer to stay longer in Milan or Copenhagen, but that’s the job!”
Getting the Message Out
The videos have a focus on education, and Neumann-Semerow interviews colleagues where possible, including flight attendants, gate staff and schedulers, or even asks passengers about what it really feels like to wear a mask. But are these Flying Reporter videos making a difference?
“Thousands of people are watching the videos on social media, or via our newsletters. We received a lot of comments,” Neumann-Semerow said. “And we try our best to answer all their questions, tell them about the measures we’ve implemented and convince them that flying is still safe.”
As well as social media, Lufthansa is using the video content to help corporate partners and travel agency staff, so they’re able to inform their customers.
He dismisses the idea they could be seen as biased, because so far nothing has been off-limits. “Quite often the world of aviation remains a hidden place behind the security control. I try to bring this daily life to a larger public. Sometimes it’s difficult to get permission to film, like at Frankfurt, by the way, but at the end they see the clip and they like it. There are lots of calls made before,” Neumann-Semerow said.
The biggest revelation so far has been discovering how quickly he adapted to wearing a mask on the plane. “During the nine-hour flight to Barbados, you forget about the mask. It’s a little cold onboard; you have your blanket, you have the mask, you forget everything,” he said. “Other guests said the same. We’ve all adapted to the situation.”