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Zak Rarhibou

Customer Experience Manager, New York

Has a lot changed from the last few months in 2019 to 2020?

The last few months of 2019 were looking very promising. October to December is peak traveling season here in the US, as those are the holiday months; you have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and right after that New Year’s Eve. At the time, the most difficult part was coping with the demand that was coming in during the peak season, but I definitely wouldn’t have imagined this. It’s all been a bit surreal.

What has the general sentiment been from customers?

For the most part it’s been positive. There’s been a trend of people wanting to bring their families together. I’ve seen customers request flights for their sister, grandmother, dad, to bring them back home. In that way it’s been great, we’ve definitely helped to bring a lot of people closer.

Customers are also more open. Initially, when we did the majority of our repatriation flights, we had quite a few of our customers offering to share their fights, even with people they didn’t know. It’s pretty incredible that in tough times like this everyone is open to helping others.

Have you had to have difficult conversations with customers at all? Were they frightened about traveling?

Of course, the whole situation is very sensitive and not easy for anyone to cope with. Things that used to be part of our daily habit might feel unfamiliar and daunting, so we have to be extra mindful of this. As a way of coping, some customers want to have as much control over their flight as possible, others want to have all the details — where the aircraft has recently been, the crew — and some simply want to be hand-held through the whole process. In any case, we have to understand that every passenger is different, and we will accommodate for this.

From a Customer Experience Manager’s perspective, it’s important that we have the answers. In fact, we have to have all the answers, as our customers rely on us to inform them. We are constantly liaising with different departments. It’s our job to make things possible and we will try our best to make their journeys as seamless as possible.

Has there been a particular flight that has challenged you?

One of our new Program Members arranged a flight out of Marrakech to London for six associates who were connecting onto a commercial flight back to the US.

Incredibly, the morning of the flight a family of five (four adults and a baby) also needed to leave Morocco for the UK, as the baby needed critical heart treatment. With the Program Member’s consent, we managed to also get them onboard and get the flight departed on time. This was one of the most challenging and rewarding flights I have ever worked on, but I am just grateful that we were able to get the passengers to where they needed to be.

Looking specifically at the US, have you seen the flying patterns of customers change?

In general, customers are becoming more comfortable with traveling around internally. It might take a while for them to feel comfortable traveling outside of the States, but I know a lot of business travelers are keen to get moving.

Do you think that the safety element that VistaJet provides is enticing new customers to sign onto a Program deal?

I certainly think so. COVID-19 has brought about a whole new demographic of customers - people that may have been interested in private aviation, but only now, given the circumstances, have considered a VistaJet Program. During times like these, people need a way to travel that is safe, reliable and grants minimized exposure. Having a VistaJet membership on side, is certainly a reliable solution. The fact that our Sales teams are still closing deals during a pandemic is a testament to this.

How are you staying motivated and positive?

There’s been a lot of uncertainty this year, but while things were quiet in March I used the time to power down and get myself mentally ready. It’s been nice having more time to reflect on my own goals, my decisions and my approach to things. I know that bettering myself will ultimately better the company. I think that's been my approach to this whole pandemic, just looking at the bright side, instead of looking at all the negative things around me.

Knowing that the company is doing everything it can to look after its employees is also very reassuring. I know people in the aviation sector and not everyone is comfortable going forward with their investments or keeping employees. VistaJet as a company has done a great job at tackling COVID-19 and keeping morale high, I am grateful to be working here.

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