What We’re Made Of is a Q&A series that looks at how companies in the aviation industry are tackling challenges brought on by the COVID–19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt to changes in where, when and how we work, but we are resilient. If you would like to share your experience, e-mail editor@apex.aero.

Andrés Castañeda Ochoa
Chief Customer and Digital Officer & EVP, Aeroméxico
Location: Mexico City
Day 20 of working from home
Date of writing: April 13

Are you in lockdown right now?
Yes, I am working from home.

Describe your current workspace. What is your new office attire?
I try to wear casual and comfortable clothing and I have established a routine as normal as possible. I have a designated area to work, trying to maintain separate spaces to keep a healthy balance.

How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
We have been using digital platforms, specifically, Microsoft Teams, which has been helpful in these complicated times.

What news outlets are you following?
At Aeroméxico we have been monitoring top tier media outlets from Mexico and abroad to follow the latest news about this rapidly changing situation and adjust our operations accordingly.

How are you passing time?
Besides working, I’ve been exercising at home for at least 1 hour daily, reading books and catching up with friends, loved ones, and the occasional Netflix and HBO series and movies.

Every day we try to find new ways to offer our clients and internal team the best experience. Safety is our priority, and we have been implementing measures to maintain safety while ensuring the feasibility of our business.

Describe where your business was at the end of 2019. What were your goals/projections for 2020?
Aeroméxico has been a solid and strong company. In January, we made history in the Mexican aviation industry by being the first airline to have concluded the offering of debt instruments in the form of Senior Unsecured Notes for $400 million dollars. This milestone has been paramount to build a strategic plan to increase and renovate our fleet and to give the best service to our customers. Even though these plans have been paused, we are confident that in the following quarters we will be able to pick up where we left off.

Can you share some specific challenges your business has faced as a result of the outbreak? How did you overcome them and how can the industry learn from your experiences?
Every day we try to find new ways to offer our clients and internal team the best experience. Safety is our priority, and we have been implementing measures to maintain safety while ensuring the feasibility of our business. As an example, we have distributed protective masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to our flight attendants. At the same time, we have revised our service processes on board to minimize interactions with and among our customers.

How prepared was your company to instate remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Due to the nature, processes and practices of each area, some teams adapted to a remote work culture easier than others. We have successfully overcome this challenge, and today 90% of our administrative staff is working from home.

How can we, as an industry, work together and rebound from this unprecedented crisis?
We firmly believe that crises can yield opportunities. In this case, we are reassessing our business processes to become more flexible and agile. This will allow us to handle the current situation more effectively while improving customer experience when things go back to normal. As an industry, we must join efforts and work in a collective strategy that can manifest our commitment to our countries and the world. The airline industry is an enabler, a bridge that connects not only people but also cargo, projects and ideas; the latter must be the purpose of building a better future.

Can you give an example of generosity or kindness displayed by your company or one of your colleagues during this crisis?
Aeroméxico has been helping the Mexican government transport medical supplies and essential goods. The government and Aeroméxico are covering the expenses of these flights so there has not been any profit on these operations. We have also been coordinating special flights to bring home Mexicans who were stranded.

What has your company done to join the efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus?
We are closely working with the Mexican Red Cross to transport for free medical equipment and personnel to 14 Mexican locations. We also have started cargo-only flights for the first time. The service is operated as a charter, meaning on demand and for shipping perishable products, high-value goods, technology and medicines, among others.

Can you describe any new working procedures that you have/will implement in light of new health and safety guidance?

  • We are implementing sanitary filters in each of our corporate and operational facilities that include monitoring vital signs, temperature and symptoms related to COVID-19.
  • Airport staff has preventive protection items such as gloves and face masks.
  • Hand cleanser is being placed at strategic points such as entrance areas, checkers, dining rooms, outside toilets and locker areas. We have also reinforced the information on preventive health measures.
  • Suppliers that require continued working in the facilities have adopted the same standards of hygiene and preventive measures.
  • We have implemented a quarantine protocol for possible cases.
  • We have onboard protocols on which the captain gives notice to land control so that when the flight arrives, health authorities carry out the tests they deem necessary.
  • We are blocking seats to separate our clients to maintain social distancing.
  • Our Safety division has been constantly communicating to our crews the preventive measures they have to follow in international stations.

Read more about the coronavirus impact on the air travel industry, including APEX’s position on the matter, and subscribe to the APEX Daily Experience newsletter to stay up to date.