Launched: Roll out from late January 2020. Fully launched by August 2020
Korean Air’s Care First programme was launched in fast reaction to the global COVID-19 pandemic. It gives the highest quality of virus protection through cleanliness and safety protocols across the entire passenger journey. New standards and procedures are now implemented through multiple layers of protection to bring much-needed comfort and assurance.
The airline is one of just a few airlines to have received a 5-star safety rating from Skytrax in recognition of the Care First programme and the way it has enhanced the customer experience through innovation in technology, inflight comfort, services, crew and food.
Korean Air invested in IT innovation to improve the customer experience, prioritising technology that reduced touchpoints on the passenger journey.
Passengers were encouraged to use contactless services such as mobile self-check-in, kiosks and the self-bag-drop. The airline also developed a baggage reconciliation system (BRS) technology, (launched in June 2020) and enabled passengers to track their baggage via their smartphones.
In December 2020, a chatbot service on Facebook Messenger and Korea’s mobile messaging app, Kakotalk, was added using an AI-based software application that communicates and interacts with users 24-hours a day, year-round.
The website was revamped and a new mobile app was added focused on customised travel, making ticket purchase easier. The carrier also created partnerships with Korea’s largest search engine Naver and Apple Pay, and is testing the IATA Travel Pass, to manage proof of COVID-19 testing or vaccination digitally.
The Care First campaign was designed to reassure and inform passengers of the multiple hygiene safety measures in place and helps them feel comfortable and confident to fly. As a display of the strong commitment to a safe inflight environment and onboard experience, Korean Air employees and executives, including Chairman Walter Cho, participated in disinfecting an aircraft.
The programme includes social distancing and multiple hygiene protocols. Plexiglass shields have been installed at check-in counters, with queue guidance markers to enforce social distancing in place at check-in and boarding gates. The aircraft are regularly disinfected and all passengers and employees are required to wear face masks. Hygiene products, including hand sanitiser are available on the aircraft and in airport terminals.
Care First kits, consisting of a set of hygiene products, including a face mask and hand sanitiser, are also available upon request at all Korean Air check-in counters and boarding gates. In addition, Korean Air conducts temperature checks on passengers before boarding and uses a ‘back to front’ zone boarding system to minimise contact between passengers. The airline also aims to provide as much spacing as possible between passengers when assigning seats.
The airline thoroughly disinfects all aircraft using MD-125, a disinfectant cleaner that effectively eliminates COVID-19 and is safe for customers and crew. It also provides the highest quality of cabin air through high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which remove 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.
Cabin crew were trained to work effectively amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been working in masks, gloves, goggles and protective gowns since April 2020. Inflight services were modified to minimise interaction between customers and crew. Cabin crew clean the interior of the cabins, including the washrooms, more frequently to maintain cleanliness and also make frequent announcements regarding COVID-19 protocols, policies, changes and precautions, as well as guidance on what to do if passengers feel unwell.
To minimise contact between passengers and cabin crew, Korean Air simplified inflight food and beverage options. Stricter hygiene standards for inflight catering were put in place and the airline expanded disposable products including disposable containers and individual water bottles. At lounges, food is served in individual packages and lunch boxes are provided to reduce physical contact.
In alignment with Korean Air’s mission to deliver ‘Excellence in Flight’ the airline was quick to make timely and comprehensive changes to its services, throughout the whole passenger journey, at the start of the pandemic – changes that will remain in force probably forever. Through the Care First programme Korean Air brought its passengers the ultimate package of safety, cleanliness and reassurance.