PE airport ready for take-off

Nwabisa Mandla, right, gets her temperature checked before entering the Port Elizabeth International Airport on Monday  Image: EUGENE COETZEE

Arriving two hours before a flight, throwing used gloves and face masks into red biohazard bins and making sure you do not sit in the wrong chair will become the new norm for those flying out of the Port Elizabeth International Airport.

On Monday, airport management were on hand to see the first business flight leave the once-dormant runway en route to Cape Town.

Port Elizabeth airport management also invited media for an on-site tour — led by operations manager Anthony Groom — to demonstrate the safety measures that had been put in place for workers and passengers in line with level 3 coronavirus lockdown regulations.

Groom said the SA Civil Aviation Authority visited the Port Elizabeth airport on June 30 and it was subsequently given approval to operate from Monday.

“Next week there will be two Safair flights every afternoon.

“Airlink will have one flight every day.”

Groom said they had implemented several adjustments to boarding process as well as the way in which waste was managed.

He advised passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their scheduled flight as there would be queues of people outside the entrance.

Arriving early would assist passengers in better  adhering to social distancing and other required regulations.

“We now have red bins for biohazardous materials,” he said.

“That’s when you want to replenish your masks or gloves — you can throw it in that bin.

“We have a contractor who will dispose of it differently to our normal general waste.

PATIENCE REQUIRED: Air travel passengers line up outside the Port Elizabeth airport on Monday, where new screening and safety protocols are in place, including a questionnaire on previous travels, temperature checks and assessing passengers’ past history relating to the coronavirus
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

“We have two doors that are specifically for entrance and exiting.

“Just before people exit they can sanitise their hands [and they can do so] throughout the building.”

He said from the time of entering the airport,  through to boarding, during the actual flight and until exiting the destination airport, social distancing would be observed and monitored.

“[At the entrance] there are two officials; the one outside will check your declaration form to check if you haven’t been in contact with anyone with Covid-19,  haven’t travelled in the last two weeks and don’t have a cough or a sore throat, in accordance to the World Health Organisation guidelines.

“From there you’ll go to the terminal where you will be screened for your temperature.

“On the left hand side the SAPS will check your documentation.

“We’d like to encourage the public to do their declarations online and bring their travel documentation along.

“Print your boarding pass online and  the procedure for going in will  [then] move more quickly.

“Every second checking counter can be used as a means to ensure social distancing is kept,” Groom said.

He added that the self-service check-in station had sanitiser next to it and that there were markers on the floor throughout the building to ensure sufficient distancing.

MIND THE GAP: Social distancing is enforced by keeping every second check-in counter in the departures hall open
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

Passengers could also sanitise before and after their belongings were scanned, with each tray used to hold items being disinfected immediately after use, according to Groom.

On the boarding side two outlets have been allowed to open for now.

A number of chairs in the boarding area now also have signs on them instructing passengers not sit on them.

Mncedisi Fusa, who arrived from Johannesburg on Tuesday, said during the flight they had practised strict social distancing.

MIND THE GAP: Social distancing is enforced by keeping every second check-in counter in the departures hall open
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

He said the seating arrangements were sufficient and that he had felt safe throughout.

Teres Qhobela, who was in a queue to enter the airport building, said the new security measures had made her feel safer.

“There are so many people outside, and  I’m wondering how are people are going to be in the plane, though I know there should be 70%,” Qhobela said.

Martin Mabunda, who flew in from Cape Town, said the safety measures were sufficient, but he was not happy with the long queues.

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