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‘Local travellers to arrive airports 90 minutes before departure’

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• Cabins are now safer, operators say

The Federal Government, Monday, reduced the passenger facilitation time for local air travellers from three hours to 90 minutes.The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the reduction was in the aftermath of local operations since commercial flight services resumed last Wednesday.

The adjustment comes just as the government scrapped earlier directive mandating airlines to keep onboard middle seats vacant, and global airlines rally against extra safety measures, as filtered cabins are adjudged safer for all.
  
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), earlier shifted the pre-boarding arrival time from one hour to three hours for local travellers. The international passengers got a shift from two to five hours, as part of measures to facilitate health and security screening in the COVID-19 era.  Sirika in a tweet Monday, said the early arrival and longer wait for flight at the airports might no longer be necessary.

  
“My colleagues and I have reviewed passenger facilitation at our airports. Consequently, I am happy to announce that, henceforth, travellers are to arrive one hour and a half before their departure time for domestic flights. Travellers are advised to check-in online, please,” he tweeted.
  
The review, The Guardian learnt, is consistent with airlines’ campaign for governments to make the rules as less stringent as possible.The chief operating officer of a local airline observed that the quality of air in modern aircraft is, in fact, “far better than most other enclosed environments” and foreclosed the need for extra measures like multiple screening and vacant middle seats.
  
He said: “The air in the cabin is exchanged with fresh air every two-three minutes, whereas the air in most office buildings is exchanged two-three times per hour. Moreover, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters capture well over 99.999 per cent of germs, including the coronavirus. With all of these, who is still talking about physical distancing that will eventually send all the airlines to their early grave and leave us with in aviation industry?”

The Chief Executive Officer of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac, earlier said governments’ directive that the public should wear a mask or face covering, when social distancing is not possible, should be the case with public transport.
  
De Juniac said this aligned with the experts’ International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Take-off guidance. “Additionally, while passengers are sitting in close proximity on board, the cabin air flow is from ceiling to floor. This limits the potential spread of viruses or germs backwards or forwards in the cabin.
  
“There are several other natural barriers to the transmission of the virus on board, including the forward orientation of passengers (limiting face-to-face interaction), seatbacks that limit transmission from row-to-row, and the limited movement of passengers in the cabin.
  
“It is no secret that passengers have concerns about the risk of transmission onboard. They should be reassured by the many built-in anti-virus features of the air flow system and forward-facing seating arrangements. On top of this, screening before flight and facial coverings are among the extra layers of protection that are being implemented by industry and governments on the advice of ICAO and the World Health Organisation. No environment is risk free, but few environments are as controlled as the aircraft cabin. And we need to make sure that travelers understand that,” de Juniac said.


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