By Chinedu Eze
Apprehension and skepticism are expected to continue to define air travel due to coronavirus pandemic, as nations adopt protocols to protect their citizens.
For instance, about two weeks ago it was announced that EU excluded Nigerians from travelling to countries under the union due to the COVID-19 fears, stating that Nigeria was not doing enough testing.
The implication of that on air travel, industry observers explained was that major carrier that have at least 86 per cent of international travel from Nigeria like Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and other European carriers would not operate in Nigeria and airlift Nigerians to their operational hubs in Europe.
According to industry stakeholders, this could totally disrupt flight operations and would also determine when the federal government would give approval for international flights.
“The major foreign airlines that operate are based in Europe. I know that those airlines need the Nigerian passengers because they make huge revenue from Nigeria; so those airlines will be pressing their governments at home, while Nigeria will also be making negotiations with EU,” an operator told THISDAY.
On COVID-19 fears by passengers, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released public opinion research showing the willingness to travel being tempered by concerns over the risks of catching the virus during air travel.
The IATA report stated that the industry’s re-start plans should address passenger’s main concerns, which include crowded places on the way to the airport, in the airport terminal, during processing, sitting next to someone who might be infected, breathing the air in the airplane and using airport restrooms.
“Travellers are taking precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19 with 77 per cent saying that they are washing their hands more frequently, 71 per cent avoiding large meetings and 67 per cent having worn a facemask in public.
“Some 58 per cent of those surveyed said that they have avoided air travel, with 33 per cent suggesting that they will avoid travel in future as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19,” IATA stated.
When asked to rank the top three measures that would make them feel safer, 37 per cent cited COVID-19 screening at departure airports, 34 per cent agreed with mandatory wearing of facemasks and 33 per cent noted social distancing measures on aircraft.
IATA said the passengers displayed a willingness to play a role in keeping flying safe by undergoing temperature checks (43 per cent), wearing a mask during travel (42 per cent),
checking -in online to minimise interactions at the airport (40 per cent); taking a COVID-19 test prior to travel (39 per cent); and sanitising their seating area (38 per cent).
“People are clearly concerned about COVID-19 when traveling. But they are also reassured by the practical measures being introduced by governments and the industry under the Take-off guidance developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
“These include mask wearing, the introduction of contactless technology in travel processes and screening measures. This tells us that we are on the right track to restoring confidence in travel. “But it will take time. To have maximum effect, it is critical that governments deploy these measures globally,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.