Exclusive: Etihad’s Australian Wellness Ambassador talks flying during the pandemic

by James Wilkinson

Onboard each Etihad Airways flight, you can now find a dedicated in-flight crew member devoted to providing the highest standards of cleanliness, health and hygiene at every stage of the customer journey to ensure guests can fly with added comfort, security, and confidence.

The dedicated crew member assists in implementing Etihad’s Wellness Program, which involves providing essential travel health information and care so guests can fly with greater peace of mind, from arrival at the airport, check-in, right through to landing safely at their destination.

To find out more about the role, Wayfarer caught up with Australian crew member Kiara Graham, one of Etihad’s first Wellness Ambassadors, to talk about the Etihad Wellness Program, the rigorous training involved, what it’s been like to fly around the world during this year, and how every aspect of flying has been transformed to adhere to new hygiene standards – including wearing full PPE on flights.

Kiara, tell us about your role as an Etihad Airways Wellness Ambassador.

My role is as an inflight Wellness Ambassador, which means I work alongside our incredible cabin crew team to ensure the health and safety of passengers while on board.
In-flight, I am in charge of making sure that both passengers and crew on board are maintaining and adhering to Etihad’s stringent hygiene standards, and ensuring guests are provided with a face mask, gloves, and disinfectant. This means that everyone on board has a go-to person when it comes to hygiene, and that the wider cabin crew members can go about their jobs normally knowing that we’re doing everything we can to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone on board.

Have you been able to work during the pandemic?

Yes I have. I am still relatively new to working with Etihad, having started in January of this year and then stepping into the Wellness Ambassador role in June. It’s a pretty unique time to be working in this type of role and I’m appreciative that I’m one of the few people able to fly internationally at the moment.

Where have you travelled to/routes you’ve covered during the pandemic?

I have been lucky enough to fly to destinations including Paris, Abu Dhabi and Australia during the pandemic, however, it’s certainly a different experience to before COVID-19. Etihad requirements mean we are no longer allowed to leave the hotel room or use the hotel facilities whilst on a stopover. This is so important to ensure the safety of not only ourselves, but the passengers on board.

What is the most rewarding part of the job?

During 2020, I think the most rewarding part of the job has been to connect people. Every day we’re supporting people who are stranded or have previously been unable to travel. Being able to support our passengers get home safely and reunite them with their friends and families, is a truly unique experience. It can be touching to see how genuinely excited passengers are to be back on board, and it really is a privilege to be part of their journey.

What is the most challenging part?

People are very used to a certain way of travelling which means it does take a bit of time to adapt to a new way flying. We work hard to communicate and re-educate passengers on the importance of the new hygiene measures in flight. It’s my job to make sure passengers have absorbed this new information and feel comfortable with these changes. It takes time to get used to, but we understand that everyone is trying their best.

How much has flying changed for you during COVID?

Flying has definitely changed in a big way this year. In my role, the primary focus is now on the health and wellness of our passengers. As a Wellness Ambassador, I’ve undergone special training to ensure I’m across all the latest travel information and updates. As you can imagine, with constantly changing Government regulations and advice, there is a lot to be across and each week I do online refreshers and new courses to keep up to date with the latest developments.
Members of the Etihad Wellness programme are also available to guests throughout every part of the passenger journey, in-flight and on the ground. There is always someone available to passengers 24/7 from the Wellness team to answer any questions pre, post and inflight related to their trip.