Picture: 123RF/JOZEF JANKOLA
Picture: 123RF/JOZEF JANKOLA

Many companies are battling as the Covid-19 pandemic and measures to stall its destruction have halted economies. One industry that has been particularly badly affected is travel and tourism as borders have been closed and planes grounded.

Wouter Vermeulen, GM for Southern Africa at Air France-KLM, says that in these challenging times every member of the company has to do whatever they can to limit expenses and “do everything possible to ensure the future of our airline. We do what we think is best, based on the limited information available — in a context that changes daily.”

Vermeulen has the following advice:

​• No-one can make good decisions if they are starved of information, so communicate, often.

“When it comes to our team, I am as open as possible in my communication with them — I tell them what I know from my discussions with our international operations and the SA government and I share my thoughts about the way forward.”

• This is no time to wait for things to happen — you need to look for new ways to do things.

“We worked hard to establish that, while passenger flights are suspended, we can still add value in terms of flying cargo in and out of SA to provide food, equipment, pharmaceuticals and other essential goods to the country, and others in our global network, to help out with the pandemic.”

• You may have a tried and tested way of doing things that has been in place for decades, but so much is different that flexibility is crucial.

• Not only is everything different, but most teams cannot sit in a room and thrash out new procedures and get to grips with them. This requires patience from everyone — the team leader and each member.

“The result of this is that we’ve had to shorten communications lines and avoid parallel communications to ensure there’s no confusion. Leaders within an organisation should endeavour to make things simple and straightforward, giving everyone a sense of what’s important, what’s urgent and what they can influence.”