At a time when connecting face-to-face isn’t as simple as we are used to, we have been taking the opportunity to catch up with members of our ITIC community, to find out how they are navigating the current crisis.
In the first of a series of interviews which we will be sharing over the coming days, we spoke with Eva Kluge, Chief Commercial Officer at Air Alliance Medflight GmbH and a member of the ITIC Global committee, who shared what lockdown has been like in Germany and her hopes for the future.
Q: How have you adapted to working from home? Where are you today?
Hello to everybody from the home office! Usually, I travel a lot which is currently not possible. As I had an office in my house before and good technical integration with our company, the change was not huge for me. Working from home helps me to really concentrate on my work. I guess it may be a lot more difficult for those who do not have a separate office and have small kids at home.
Q: What are the major issues pertaining to your country as a result of the virus?
The lockdown in Germany, compared to other countries, has been comparatively mild, but stringent. Germany has a large proportion of elderly people who are more at risk to get infected and we have had a substantial number of reported cases.
On the other hand, a strong healthcare system with one of the highest number of ICU beds per 100,000 inhabitants worldwide has helped to mitigate the risk and has kept the number of deaths relatively low. Extensive testing has also helped.
Q: How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your products and services to date?
Definitely. As an air ambulance operator, we have purchased a top modern isolation unit (the Epishuttle) for the global transport of highly contagious patients. This requires extensive training and preparation. Likewise, we are continuously adjusting our operations to the latest developments.
There are a lot of restrictions these days, e.g. regarding immigration, overnight stays in airport hotels, lack of commercial flights etc. These can be handled by staying fully updated and by finding alternatives. For example, when going to Southern India with a Learjet, you may have to stay overnight in Sri Lanka now as an overnight in India is no longer allowed. Instead of bed-to-bed transfers, operators do mostly tarmac only these days as immigration will be denied in most cases.
Q: What do you think the future of the travel industry will look like?
I am quite positive that the industry will recover, starting from Q3/ Q4 this year, but it may not be back to fully normal until mid-2021.
Personally, I would hope that leisure travel will become more sustainable and less of a bargain hunt. I also believe that there may be a certain shift in the destination preferences of travellers towards ‘safer’ countries, at least for a while and for certain groups. Increased digitization may cause less business travel, but nonetheless, human interaction remains a very important factor.
Q: Looking ahead to a time when we can meet face-to-face once again, can you tell us what you enjoy most about the International Travel & Health Insurance Conferences?
Humans are social beings and personal interaction will continue to be paramount for successful business relationships. Doing global business development myself, a conference is a perfect way to interact in a great setting with international players from around the world. ITIC has managed to create an extraordinary platform for global networking.
Eva Kluge – Chief Commercial Officer, Air Alliance Medflight GmbH
Eva Kluge is Chief Commercial Officer at Air Alliance Medflight, an international air ambulance company, based in Germany. Eva is an expert in aeromedical repatriation, medical assistance, supplier management and health insurance and a regular addition to the ITIC agenda as well as a valued member of the ITIC Global Air Ambulance committee.
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