APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying establishes a coherent industry standard that customers can use to make informed air travel choices.
The 2021 outlook remains muddy for travelers and the aviation industry at large. Year-over-year demand is down approximately 60%. Border restrictions, quarantine requirements and the unpredictable nature of the virus all act as barriers to travel. But there is hope on the horizon in the form of new vaccines, and as the industry begins to navigate its way out of the fog, APEX and SimpliFlying are taking a leading role in speaking up for airline customers.
“There was a clear need to leverage our 42 years as a non-profit advancing airline passenger experience,” said APEX/IFSA CEO Dr. Joe Leader, commenting on the impetus for the idea to launch a process whereby airlines could be audited and reviewed based on how closely they adhere to a “gold standard” of customer safety. Last fall, APEX asked SimpliFlying, a global leader in aviation strategy, to be the external auditor that would verify, validate and certify the health safety steps that each airline is taking to better serve their customers.
The APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying audit consists of a 58-point checklist that can be filled out online, free of charge. The questionnaire covers 10 categories, including testing, tracing, on-the-ground procedures, in-flight measures and even co-branded partnerships that further the integrity of airline product safety. The results are validated by SimpliFlying before the airline receives a grade. So far, 33 airlines are participating in the program. According to Dr. Leader, approximately one-third of airlines improved their health safety procedures after being audited. APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying will also keep airlines updated on evolving health safety customer care standards and provide space for airlines with medical, university and scientific expertise to participate in the development of future customer-centric health safety advancements.
Twelve global airlines have been certified thus far, including Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Etihad, JetSmart, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Singapore Airlines, Spirit, Sri Lankan, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Each airline will announce whether they received a Gold, Platinum or Diamond rating. Expanding on the significance of the three tiers, Dr. Leader said that the majority of airlines worldwide would reach Gold status. To achieve a Platinum rating, airlines must implement 50% more safety steps than required for Gold status. Diamond ratings indicate that an airline has put in place hospital-grade health safety measures, processes and training, along with an end-to-end focus on wellness.
One concern when it comes to the current aviation landscape lies with airlines competing against one another on travel safety; Dr. Leader was quick to point out that APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying is different from the star-based APEX Official Airline Ratings in that regard. “It’s admitting that there is a ‘gold standard’ for our industry and that we hope for all of our airlines to do better.”
The new initiative can serve leisure travelers, but Dr. Leader said that certified airlines can expect a 2% bump in sales this year thanks to the niche it fills for businesses looking to verify that their employees can travel safely. “APEX believes that there will be gravitation to Gold, Platinum and Diamond airlines by the second quarter of 2021. This may be a component of corporate travel policies moving forward.” Dr. Leader also noted that APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying will evolve over time because the need for intelligent innovations centered around passenger health will not go away in a post-COVID world. He pointed to the fact that new hygiene measures in the US have led to a 98% reduction in flu cases. “We will have an ongoing obligation to maintain customer wellness as an integral part of airline passenger experience.”
See the press release for more information.