As Nigeria considers re-opening her airspace soon, airline operators, air transport regulators and industry service providers have begun to assess strategies to restart the air travel industry.
At a webinar organised by League of Aviation and Airport Correspondents on Thursday, airliners and aviation handlers agreed that the post-Coronavirus Disease era would present a new normal that would completely shift from how the industry was running before the pandemic.
Most of the participants canvassed technology as a major solution to unburden the system and aid in reducing physical contact to the barest minimal.
The webinar entitled ‘Nigeria’s Aviation Industry: Changing Times, Changing Strategies’ examined steps that should help protect air travellers when re-start becomes official as well as aid airlines and other players attain economic viability.
Former director general of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Harold Demuren, advised the industry to take advantage of the present disadvantage and automate properly, as it would help reduce contact.
He said, “You can do every ticket purchase, every check-in, even choose a seat via your laptop. You, as journalists, can help us advocate this. You cannot process 1,000 people one after the other and you should not have to; so the industry needs automation.
“Airport infrastructure also needs to improve,” he canvassed.
Also speaking on airline’s response to facilitation and safety during restart, chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said although still in discussion, airlines were against the middle seat removal and had devised ways to ensure limited contact during boarding as well as safeguard passengers.
Onyema said apart from the constant disinfection of aircraft, passengers were not likely to catch the virus on board, but could do so around the airport or any other environment before even getting to boarding point.
His words, “We have devised a way to board and reduce contact a lot by first calling for the right window seat. After that is done and they are settled, we can call for the middle seats then. After that, we can call the left window seat then you can call in the aisle seat at the right and then the aisle seat at the left. This will minimise interaction. If we leave the middle empty, then the least ticket would be N100,000, which will not be good for the airline and passengers.”
Principal managing partner of Avaero Capital, Sindy Foster, also backed claims that removal of middle seats from the equation was not to anyone’s advantage.
She said, “It is a ridiculous idea for airlines and it won’t work. It is unnecessary and we have to look at the disadvantage. Majorly, a lot of people will have limited capacity for travel by air.”