Of all the sectors most hit by the pandemic, it is hard to think of an industry that hit as much turbulence as the airline industry. In many cases, entire fleets were grounded.

However, as the UK starts to open up as restrictions ease, Malaysia Airlines' Head of Marketing, for UK and Europe, Richard De Villa told MAD//Anywhere last month that reassurance and flexibility are key to the industry bouncing back.

Despite the past 12 months hitting the airline industry hard De Villa sees signs of optimism and "light at the end of the tunnel." During lockdown whilst people yearned for escapism and holidays De Villa states that "the discovery of new variants stifled any sustained upswing in conversions and bookings". However, he says that there has been a sharp increase in demand for foreign travel since the publication of the government roadmap.

Malaysia Airlines carried out a large survey to find out what would make their customers feel at ease at returning to travelling on its flights. The key findings were that travellers want to be "reassured about the safety measures on board a plane" and demand "greater ticket flexibility when booking".

On safety, Malaysia Airlines undertook a Flight Confidence campaign which "underpins all our communications across all our communications channels." This campaign is constantly updated and "highlights all safety measures now in place including mandatory face masks on planes, what you should do before boarding, complimentary hygiene kits through to full PPE being worn by flight staff and the disinfecting all touch points on the plane."

On flexibility, De Villa says that Malaysia Airlines, "were one of the first airlines to launch a fully flexible fair product that meant our customers could change their travel arrangements an unlimited number of times, and be able to refund their tickets without incurring any penalty charges should their plans change, for whatever reason." The immediate benefit to the airline has been clear as the as the take up of this new product has been rapid.

As we head towards the full easing of restrictions, summer, and the holiday season he does not see any issues with demand. Therefore, key focus for Malaysia Airlines will continue to be on reassuring its customers, understanding their concerns, and responding to them.

"We have to keep on getting the right message to our customers at the right time... Adaptability and speed in responding to potential changes in government announcements is also paramount and now our customers have a lot of options and flexibility with their ticket purchase."

Attended by over 3,000 global marketing leaders, MAD//Anywhere featured 147 speakers over two days including Ogilvy Vice-chair Rory Sutherland, Dishoom Co-founder Shamil Thakrar, Eve Sleep CEO Cheryl Calverley and Purple Bricks CMO Ben Carter. Sessions are available to watch on-demand on the MAD//Fest YouTube channel.