As we all weather the coronavirus crisis, the world has quickly adapted to radically new working environments. We reached out to members of the AirPlus community to find out just how these changes look. Account Manager Thomas Göbel shares his experience from Austria, a country that has handled the crisis very well.
Thomas, how are you doing? Can you bring us up to date on the current situation in your country?
My family is doing very fine. We enjoyed this time very much and do a lot of things together in the afternoon. I won't see so much family time during working hours again in my lifetime – hopefully :)
Since April 28, the situation in Austria has eased somewhat. In early May, curfew restrictions were lifted and we have been allowed to meet relatives and friends again, but we are still advised to observe all safety measures (social distancing, facemasks, hygiene regulations). Since the middle of May, measures have continued to relax in the catering business, hotel business, and schools.
|Account Manager Thomas Göbel is no stranger to working from home.
Since June 15, we don’t need facemasks in Austria anymore. It’s only a must for going to the hairdresser, hospital, or drugstore. That makes life much easier. On June 17, I had my first “real” business meeting face to face (keeping a 2-meter distance). That was a really good feeling.
How is the population reacting to the changes?
Due to the relaxation of the past days and weeks, the mood in the country is a little more positive; at least that’s how I feel in my hometown (Himberg near Vienna in Lower Austria). It is very amusing to now see a surplus of toilet paper in the supermarkets and drugstores...
Austria reacted relatively early with strict measures to the spread of the coronavirus. How did you deal with the fact that you were suddenly restricted in certain areas of life, like no longer being allowed to leave the house at night?
It was actually not so bad for me and my family. We built a fixed structure into the days so that my daughter (10 years old) could continue to have a certain rhythm. In the morning we all worked or did e-learnings and in the afternoon we enjoyed the time as a family. Shopping in the supermarkets was not a big issue for us in Austria either, as hardly anything changed. There were only a few exceptions in the country, where some supermarkets were stormed, in Tyrol for instance. And the only thing that was in short supply for a few days was toilet paper, but that is no longer an issue.
Austria’s capital Vienna has ranked as the world’s most livable city for the second year in a row.
Has this time been a significant challenge for you?
To be honest, no. A certain amount of change, yes, because schools were closed too. But since I’m in the field and work in all kinds of places (e.g. in the car as I’m waiting for the next appointment), it was not that bad.
How have you as a team kept in touch with each other? How do you stay motivated?
We talk on the phone regularly and exchange information. But we did this even before corona, because I only see my colleagues from the other states once a quarter. Nothing has really changed. I also don't have the feeling that anyone in our sales team is demotivated. Rather that there is a certain amount of concern, as none of us knows where this journey will take us. However, our country manager regularly informs us about the current situation in the company, which has also clarified many open questions.
Has this situation changed the way we deal with customers? Do you have to talk to customers differently?
No. We continue to help customers with their open questions and get mostly very positive feedback, because we react very quickly despite short-time work.
What advice would you give customers worried about the future of business travel payment in the wake of the coronavirus crisis?
I advise my customers that they should not change their processes during these difficult times (e.g. canceling the company account and changing to invoice). In a few months – hopefully – business will come back and they’ll have a good working process and won’t have to think about every single invoice.
Can we learn anything from this crisis? Have you taken anything positive away?
Definitely. I hope that people will again appreciate the services of partners and not take as much for granted. You can already feel in your private everyday life that people are relaxing again and are more friendly when shopping. I’d be happy to see this unnecessary hectic pace of the past years disappear. It isn’t necessary for our business – we aren’t performing open-heart surgery, after all. And if anything, for whatever reason, takes longer, the passenger will still fly and the ticket will still be paid for through us. I would therefore like to see us live with a bit more serenity and humility in a country that can rely on great medical care and perfect infrastructure.
Thanks, Thomas, and all the best for you and your family!
 Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash