Analysts have projected that there will be passengers’ surge after flight resumption as entrepreneurs, top government officials and strategic decision-makers whose activities were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic move to recover lost grounds in their businesses and work-related activities.
THISDAY gathered that with insecure rail and road transport, business and economic leaders will rely on air transport to revamp businesses that suffered during the lockdown.
Within the nine weeks the airlines stopped domestic flights, their projected loss has been estimated to be about N4.7 billion revenue to be earned from ferrying about 2,250,000 passengers and other ancillary services.
International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said the lockdown would endanger 91,380 jobs and $650 million in contributions to the Nigerian economy.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has hinted that when the ban on air travel is lifted, domestic flights would be allowed first while the government reviews international air travel, which would also be lifted over time.
The CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, told THISDAY that passengers would turn up massively at the airports, adding that NCAA and airlines would sensitise the public and assure them that air travel is safe.
“We will go on a road show to sensitise the people. The measures NCAA and the airlines have taken will ensure that everyone is protected both at the airports and while onboard flight. We want to make everybody know that it is safer to be in the aircraft than to be in a supermarket or in the bank. This is because the air inside the aircraft is regulated and filtered. The aircraft will be decontaminated every day and the air inside the aircraft is not stagnant; it is continuously filtered at all times. The engines continuously pump fresh air into the aircraft. So, there is a high degree of filtration of the cabin.
“Also, anybody that manifests the symptom of coronavirus will not be allowed to board flights. That is why airlines will carefully check the temperature of passengers, use sanitisers and as flights resume, airlines would notify passengers that they would not be allowed to travel if they manifest symptoms of COVID-19,” Sanusi said.
He said IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) were striving to protect air travellers while countries and airlines will domesticate those regulations, directives and standards to ensure that people travel by air before the vaccine is approved and made available.
A senior official of NCAA told THISDAY that two weeks before resumption of flights, the regulatory authority would embark on a sensitisation campaign to draw travellers back to the airports.
Before then, he said NCAA would ensure that flights are safe and passengers are protected from being infected while travelling by air, adding that the agency is concentrating on ensuring that airlines abide by its regulations as they prepare to take back to the skies.
“Passengers will love to hear what is being done to protect them. They would rather hear from the regulator than from the airlines. We are coming up with PR campaign to woo passengers back to air travel. We are looking at domestic air travel first and we will start with few airports like Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt before we add more airports.“Right now we are monitoring the airlines. We are looking at how they maintain their aircraft to make sure it conforms with our directives and how they stored the aircraft during the period of lockdown. So, we will issue them certifications for their aircraft and personnel before they fly,” the official said.
However, industry consultant and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Mr. Chris Aligbe, said there were many things to be done for flights to resume properly, adding that every stakeholder, including the aviation agencies, must show commitment to ensure that travellers go back to the airports.
“NCAA should make sure that all the protocols are laid out under its supervision. NCAA has the responsibility to convince the passengers that flying is safe. Passengers need to be convinced and encouraged. Airlines can advertise but NCAA has the responsibility to the passengers’ health and safety; so they will have to assure them. I am sure that the NCAA is on top of it,” Aligbe added.
He suggested that all airlines should not start at the same time because if they do, it would take a longer time for them to have good load factor, noting that if the resumption are staggered, it would be better for the operators.