Operators and stakeholders in the air travel business have urged the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), to deploy new technology in safety and security screening programmes at the airports ahead their reopening.
The stakeholders said the enhanced technology for air travellers’ check-in procedures would improve the turnaround performance of airlines, especially during this COVID-19 era.
Recall that FAAN lately urged travellers to brace up for flight delays and multiple checks, among others, as the new normal in aviation begins.
Speaking recently at the Sabre Africa Network Webinar conference, themed, “Understanding Travel Complexities Post-COVID-19,” a panel of operators urged industry regulators to increase their technology performance for the local sector to be able to compete in the new era.
Country Manager, Cabo Verde Airline, Gbenga Onitilo, said the advent of coronavirus had reduced capacity of airlines by over 90 per cent, while about 30 million people are directly and indirectly unemployed globally as a result of the pandemic, noting that the crisis had compelled the need for innovation on business environments.
Onitilo explained that the global travel sector would never remain the same post-COVID-19 until vaccines were developed to combat the disease, regretting that the countries with the highest number of tourists like United States, United Kingdom, Italy and a few others are mostly impacted by the pandemic.
He further explained that airport performance would determine the airline’s turnaround performance.
Regrettably, he said, while the world was aware of the latest developments in other aviation countries; the same could not be said of Nigeria as yet.
He noted that resumption of flight operations might happen soon, but expressed doubt about the preparation of Nigerian airports towards post-Covid-19 era.
“We are not going to return to pre-Covid-19 era again in the way we do our businesses. Everybody is now innovative about taking the business to their customers; even the airlines are having a lot of shifts.
“Airports will determine aircraft turnaround and not the airlines alone. We don’t know the pre-checking procedures in our airports. Dubai International Airport has embarked on automation process for air travellers, yet, we don’t have information from FAAN and NCAA,” Onitilo said
Sales Manager, Air Cote D’Ivoire in Nigeria, Abiola Bakare, expressed optimism that the travel industry would return to the pre-Covid-19 era in the next two or three years.
Bakare said Air Cote D’Ivoire had put in measures to facilitate passengers’ check-in at all the airports it operates from, including Nigeria.
He charged air operators to be ingenious and think outside the box in order to compete for post-Covid-19 era, stressing that it was time the operators worked with Travel Management Companies (TMCs) for improved delivery to clients.
He also called for harmonised health certificate for all travellers worldwide, saying people would not travel if they would be isolated for 14 days in any country.
“Covid-19 has come to stay here with us and may end up like a way of life just like malaria, yellow fever and others in Africa. For Air Cote D’Ivoire, passengers would need about three hours to go through the check-in. Even, FAAN in a statement said passengers should expect delays at airports.
“Air Cote D’Ivoire is putting in a lot of measures to enhance safety in its operations. We will be able to return to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic in the next two to three years. People are willing to travel inasmuch as the airports are safe. We are embarking on aircraft sterilisation,” he said.
President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agency (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, expressed optimism that the travel agencies would blossom more post-COVID-19 era as more travellers would seek more information about their travel plans and destinations.
Akporiaye called on travel agency practitioners to equip themselves with more relevant information and charged the government to release more necessary information on new procedures to the body for an easy transition.
She said: “The government should stop thinking that we as travel agents will come to ask them for money. What we need is international standards in our operations for the country. People want to travel but are also careful about safety.
“Nigerian airports should emulate what is happening around the world. We can’t be an island. We need to be a part of the global travel community. Government should carry along the travel agencies in the review of procedures they are putting in place.”