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COVID-19 impact: Airlines offer Starbucks coffee, insurance cover, full body checkups to woo fliers

Airlines and travel portals are also offering discounts for doctors, nurses and those from the armed forces

July 30, 2020 / 03:14 PM IST
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Cash-back, discounts on fares and flying miles are no longer enough to woo passengers, especially when fears around COVID-19 and quarantine regulations have subdued sentiments.

Instead, airlines are now offering discounts on doctor consultation, insurance covers and full body check ups to entice customers to book tickets. There are also special offers for doctors, nurses and the armed forces, in line with the current sentiment in the country, with regards to COVID-19 and the standoff with China.

The offers come even as domestic flights, which resumed on May 25, continue to see capacity utilisation of just up to 30 percent, and loads that hover around the half-way mark.

"We are observing that most of the current demand is for emergency travel. This is borne out by the fact that more than 90 percent of the bookings are for one way trips and more than 80 percent of the bookings are for travel dates within two weeks," Balu Ramachandran, Global Head for the Air Business at Cleartrip, told Moneycontrol.

"Traffic volumes on our website indicate that there is pent up demand for travel, but customers are being cautious due to the pandemic and are placing higher emphasis on safety and flexibility as compared to pricing. Hence, we have offers available on our website," added Ramachandran.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Who is offering what?

Much of the focus, given the fear of COVID-19, has been on health and safety. GoAir is offering customers online doctor consultation packages with each booking. There are also offers on full body check ups.

SpiceJet has tied up with insurance provider Digit, to offer cover against COVID-19. The cover, with a premium ranging from Rs 443 to Rs 1,564, promises to cover hospital expenses.

To honour the frontline warriors against the virus, IndiGo is offering a 25 percent discount to doctors and nurses. The discount will be offered till December 31, 2020.

“The nurses and doctors will be required to provide valid hospital IDs at the time of check-in as a proof of their identity," the airline had said in a statement.

Apart from the challenges posed by the increasing cases of those infected by COVID-19, the country has also seen a lot of anti-China sentiment and solidarity for the defence forces, since the standoff at the Galwan Valley.

Travel portal EaseMyTrip is offering special benefits for the armed forces, including those from the Air Force, Army, Navy, Paramilitary Forces, Coast Guard,trainee cadets and veterans.

"We are presenting special airfares for Indian soldiers who are serving the nation for many years. These airfares are lower up to 25 percent than normal prevailing fares," CEO Nishant Pitti said.

Travellers are required to showcase their ID card/Dependent card at the time of check-in at the airport for the identification, he added.

The SoPs laid out by the government may have robbed fliers with Vistara of the now popular in-flight meal services. The airline had been offering Starbucks coffee for passengers in the Business and Premium Economy categories.

To make up for the loss, Vistara is offering passengers a discount at Starbucks stores with every booking. The offer is a 20 percent discount at any Starbucks store, on total purchase of Rs 600 and above. One needs to present the soft copy or hard copy of the Vistara boarding pass at the store.

Prince Mathews Thomas
Prince Mathews Thomas heads the corporate bureau of Moneycontrol. He has been covering the business world for 16 years, having worked in The Hindu Business Line, Forbes India, Dow Jones Newswires, The Economic Times, Business Standard and The Week. A Chevening scholar, Prince has also authored The Consolidators, a book on second generation entrepreneurs.
first published: Jul 30, 2020 03:14 pm