Fare hike, flight delays, multiple checks await air travellers
• FAAN strips VIPs of escorts, privileges
Air travellers in the country may be in for unpleasant travel experience as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), introduces new safety measures at aerodromes ahead of the resumption of commercial flight services.
The Authority, following the decontamination of Lagos and Abuja airports, said health screening would be more thorough to warrant several checks from the point of arrival at the airport to departure.
Consequently, the development would warrant mandatory early arrival for departing travellers, longer check-in duration, flight delays, checks and re-checks all in observance of the safety protocols.
Similarly, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, also disclosed that escorts of VIPs would no longer be allowed to tag along with their principals into the terminals, just as the VIPs would now be subjected to all safety and security checks.
Yakubu, who spoke at an aviation webinar forum, organised by Women in Aviation, Nigeria, said it was a dispensation of new normal that requires all travelling passengers to prepare for the worst but expect the best.
At all airports, she said, social distancing would be observed 100 per cent. Temperature screening, wearing of face masks, disinfection of shoes and luggage of passengers would also be carried out regardless of personalities.
“There will be floor markings indicating where each passenger will wait on the queue. Arriving passengers will also be subjected to temperature screening; physical distancing too will be observed while passengers are waiting by the carousel to pick up their luggage. Passengers are expected to arrive at the airport with their face masks on, their luggage and pairs of shoes to be disinfected.
“We are, therefore, going to expect flight delays from multiple checks and re-checks. If you are travelling, I will expect a potential traveller to leave home hours before his flight because there are going to be a lot of checks at the front of the terminal. We have been told that some activities and procedures will take place in front of the terminal. So, air travellers are expected to leave home very early so that they can get to the airport on time.”
And for all these extra measures, Yakubu added, passengers should also expect airlines to hike fare tickets and rates.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), earlier estimated that distancing measures on aircraft would shift the economics of aviation by slashing the maximum load factor to 62 per cent. That is well below the average industry breakeven load factor of 77 per cent.
But with fewer seats to sell, unit costs would rise sharply. Compared to 2019, airfares would need to go up dramatically—between 43 per cent and 54 per cent depending on the region—just to break even.
Yakubu admitted that the COVID-19 had brought a lot of changes to air travel and to ensure the safety of passengers and airport users, the way of doing things had to change, though not without affecting the air travel business.
General Manager, Customer Service/SERVICOM, FAAN, Ebele Okoye, harped on the decongestion of the terminal building, especially outside where all sorts of people, who do not have business at the airport mill around.
Okoye said in reducing contacts, the days of manually opening travellers’ bag at the airport to search what is inside should be done away with.
“I will urge all the airports to consider and make provision for different kinds of passengers, social distancing, adequate information, security and most importantly, social security.”
Okoye urged passengers to save themselves the stress of coming to the airport to buy tickets. Rather, they should buy their tickets online, check-in online and pay for their trolleys online to reduce the hours they would have to spend carrying out these activities.
“Social security can be done online. For tickets purchased online, I am sure the airline will notify the people who purchase their tickets to check-in online and decongest the terminal building. No hangers-on around and touts should be out of the airports. Anyone that is not travelling should not be allowed to enter the airport. How do passengers get their trolley? They can pay online, you don’t need contacts,” she said.