Virgin Australia cabin crew told to stop calling passengers 'mate'
VIRGIN Australia cabin crew have been warned not to call passengers "mate" and tone down their sexy image as part of the airline’s bid to move upmarket.
Etiquette classes have been introduced, including wine appreciation and instruction on body language, designed to help Virgin compete with Qantas for business passengers.
It will reportedly involve Virgin crew moving away from a cheeky, “sexualised” image of staff to a more upmarket approach.
“They want us to get away from that ’sex’ look that’s been attached to the company,” a stewardess told News Limited newspapers.
As part of the changes, business class lounges will be upgraded and a pool table in the Melbourne lounge will be replaced by a coffee bar.
Cabin crew have been told not to fold their arms – because it appears defensive — and to only use the term “mate” if it has been specifically requested by frequent fliers on the airline’s database.
“We are not creating clones and we are not creating straitjackets for people,” said Mark Hassell, from Virgin Australia. “We want to retain of the spirit that exists within Virgin service style and service behaviour but put it in a context that is equally relevant for business-purpose and corporate travellers.”
Though Qantas has long dominated the corporate travel market in Australia, Virgin has recently begun to move away from its focus on holiday travellers and youth to compete for high-yield business travellers.
The airline, founded in 2000 by Sir Richard Branson, has increased its proportion of business travellers in the past two years from 10 per cent to 18 per cent.
But the business class war between the airlines has led to a 40 per cent drop in prices in the past year and a 20 per cent drop in the past month.
The airline’s chief executive, John Borghetti, said at the weekend that Qantas has had limited domestic business competition for more than a decade since the demise of the large domestic carrier, Ansett.
“We deliberately entered that market,” Mr Borghetti said. “We knew the fares were very high and we could bring competition at lower fares with better service. That’s exactly what we have done and I think you’ll find that the fares have dropped more than 20 per cent.”