Last Updated On November 1, 2020.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Captain has switched on the Fasten Seat Belt sign. Please take your seat, fasten your seat belt and make sure you wear your facemask and visors.
The Nigerian Government announced on Monday, June 1, that five major airports could reopen from Sunday, June 21 (pending review).
Across the nation, air carriers can now heave a sigh of relief after about four months of grounded flights.
In Lagos, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport will commence only domestic flights in conjunction with Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport Kano, Omagwa International Airport Port Harcourt, and Sam Mbakwe Airport Owerri.
But flying isn’t going to business as usual for the multibillion dollar industry.
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Here’s seven fixes that will change air travel in Nigeria.
1. Compulsory Use of Facemasks
I know there’s a strict regulation on the use of facemasks nationwide but this has been disregarded by a whole lotta citizens. However, it won’t be the same for the air travel community.
Photo Credit. @FAAN_Official
In respect to public health and safety, travellers and employees will not be allowed into terminals if they’re not wearing one.
Again, I predict that there could be facemask dispensers in airport buildings and if not, local vendors will have access to sell facemasks in certain areas of the airport premises.
In Turkey, the national carrier, Turkish Airlines is ensuring that passengers are given a pair of facemask and visor on each flight.
Will the Nigerian aviation industry replicate this move?
Well, I don’t know but it’ll be pretty cool if airlines prioritize these kits for everyone.
2. Strict Social Distancing Practices
There’ll be markings on the floor to control queue spacing and overcrowding in airport facilities.
Photo Credit. Le Mark Group
Like in Japan, plastic sheets may be used at work desks and security operatives will work round-the-clock to monitor the number of travellers who have access to the terminal at any given time.
There could also be a reduction in food and drink service and just like with Ryanair, the popular European budget carrier, passengers may be required to ask for permission before using the bathroom so that lines do not form.
In an interview with Channels Television, Managing Director, Aero Contractor Airline, Captain Aso Sanusi, mentioned that social distancing could be practiced effectively by operating larger aircrafts for commercial travel.
This means aircrafts like Boeing 737, Boeing 777 (Triple Seven) and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 which can seat 100 passengers or more depending on spacing will have the green light while aircrafts with smaller capacity like the Embraer ERJ145, Bombardier CRJ 900 and De Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 may remain grounded.
3. Possible Hike in Prices
When I published my article on public transportation in Lagos with the pandemic, I didn’t foresee a hike in fares.
Photo Credit. Nigeria Travel Smart
If commercial airlines are going to split their passenger numbers, we could as well be ready to help them recuperate from the losses.
This means at least a 50% hike in flight fares and the increment may also extend to airport taxi services and charter.
4. Increase in Thermal Checks
At the entrance and exit points of airports, check in desks and onboard aircrafts, temperature of commuters will be properly checked and possibly recorded for quarantine purposes.
Photo Credit. BBC
In addition to reading figures, passengers will have to fill an inquiry form containing details like phone numbers, address and emails. This happened before the ban on air travel.
5. Disinfection of Aircrafts
Social distancing. Check! Wearing of facemasks. Check! So what now?
It’s going to be mandatory to disinfect aircrafts before, during and after flights. And the entire process must be carefully executed without rush.
Only recommended cleaning utensils and liquids will be used and cleaners have to pay attention to armrests, seatbacks, cabinets, lockers, cockpit, tray tables, seatbelt latches, lavatory, controls and buttons.
Photo Credit. Nation Thailand
In case of emergency or any suspected infection, the passenger may quarantine in the rear lavatory. Also, crew members will have to migrate other passengers seated in the affected areas.
6. Disinfection of Airports
Walls, windows, floors, door handles, tables and chairs in the departure and arrival lounge will be cleaned round-the-clock with required disinfectants.
Airports around the world have devised several efficient methods of cleaning including Ultraviolet Light Emitters, Robotic Cleaners and Disinfectant Machines. Nigeria shouldn’t be left behind.
Photo Credit. The Verge
Airline operators and employees are advised to wear hand gloves and avoid touching passenger documents.
7. Brace for Delays
More safety equals more delays and increased turnaround but it’ll all be good eventually.
Authorities will have to ensure that best practices are implemented in order to curb a new spread of the virus from air travellers.
Photo Credit. Wheelchair Travel
So, Will Air Travel Be Safe in Nigeria?
Umm, let’s see. Nigeria isn’t going to be the first country to commence flights with the pandemic.
The same has been replicated in several countries all over the world, some even before us.
In South Sudan, airports across the country opened on Tuesday May 12, and announced the resumption of domestic and international flights despite a rise in Covid-19 cases.
On the other hand, Hong Kong airports have reopened after nearly two weeks without new cases. Disinfectant machines spray and sanitize fully clothed passengers and employees before they step into the terminal.
Photo Credit. Forbes
Authorities in Cyprus resumed air travel in the country since June 9. Passengers can now board flights restored to two categories of countries which include Greece, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Croatia, the Czech Republic and many others.
The Spanish Government has reopened major airports across the country in cities like Tenerife, Alicante, Seville, Ibiza, Madrid and Barcelona. All incoming travellers, including Spanish citizens, will be required to self-quarantine for fourteen days to limit the spread of Covid-19.
So far, so good there hasn’t been an upsurge or rise in new cases of infections in countries that have taken bold steps to kickstart their aviation sector. But one thing is clear and that’s disinfection.
If Nigeria would like citizens to travel safely during this period, relevant stakeholders must also be ready to enforce and follow up very strict hygiene and disinfection practices.
There’s something that bothers me about these baby steps towards recovering the 20 Billion monthly revenue lost in the sector. Will the government lift interstate travel restrictions since air travel will be allowed? I can’t really say but let’s see how this plays out.
If interstate restrictions are lifted, there could be a looming crisis waiting to happen. I mean, just look at Lagos, a week after the lockdown relaxation we had reports of about 2,000 confirmed cases and on Friday June 12, Democracy Day, we got 6,611 cases. Ha!
Rumbling on about other travel restrictions may open up a whole new chapter but for now, I’ll anticipate the government’s move in upcoming weeks.
Over To You!
If you read this from another country, has commercial air travel resumed operations in your place? And if you’ve recently flown, how was it?
I look forward to rubbing minds with everyone in the comments below. Make sure you read other recommended and related articles on surviving Covid-19.
Thanks and see ya on the next one.
Featured Photo. CGTN Africa