Health measures are being considered by airlines as air travel has come to a standstill during the Covid-19 pandemic.
All over the world airlines are restrategising their health and safety regulations to get travellers flying again during these unprecedented times.
Top scientists predict the surge in Covid-19 infections could start slowing around October, and don’t expect a return to “normality” until 2021.
A report by the airline strategy firm SimpliFlying predicts air travel may change in more than 70 ways after the pandemic, with a mix of policy changes and new additions.
One airline that has changed its policy to reduce the spread of Covid-19 is Air Seychelles. The airline revealed on Monday that a comprehensive set of new ground handling measures has been implemented at the Seychelles International Airport, including that passengers travelling on flights handled by Air Seychelles must arrive at the airport four hours before departure.
According to the airline, the four hours will allow passengers sufficient time to proceed through the new health and safety procedures, from check-in and immigration to customs and boarding.
The change will also enable on time departures of all airlines operating from the Seychelles International Airport.
“In adopting the new normal, passengers will be requested to answer health-related questions and have their temperature monitored before joining the check-in queue,” said the airline.
“In adherence to the guidelines from the health authorities, sanitising stations and physical distancing indicators have been placed within the airport facility. Physical protective barriers are present at every check-in counter to provide additional safety reassurance to both passengers and guest service agents on duty.”
Head of Air Seychelles ground services Vania Larue said the “dynamism of the Covid-19 pandemic has led the airline to change its usual ground handling duties” at the airport.
“In line with guidance from the health authorities, together with the regulator, we had to adapt and develop a new ground handling policy to incorporate the new health and safety procedures as part of our business.
“To ensure these measures are implemented accordingly, we advise all passengers to arrive at the airport four hours before their flights to complete all the required formalities and ensure timely turnaround of their flights,” said Larue.
What other airlines are doing
Some airlines in SA have already implemented social distancing and cleaning measures.
FlySafair passengers can block middle seats for R750. The “blocking” option is for passengers concerned about flying during the pandemic. It means if a traveller occupies the window or aisle seat, they won’t have anyone sitting next to them.
The airline will charge a mandatory R20 “Covid-19 fee” for all passengers flying during the pandemic. The R20 is to cover temperature screening before boarding, hand sanitisers, face masks and aircraft sanitisation.
The Dubai-based airline Emirates is testing passengers for Covid-19 before boarding flights at its Dubai hub to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The quick blood Test is conducted by the Dubai Health Authority and results are available within 10 minutes.
The airline has vowed to pay up to R2m for medical expenses and R1,900 a day for the weeks spent in quarantine for its passengers who contract Covid-19 while flying from now until the end of October.
Emirates group chairperson and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said the programme is aimed at boosting confidence in international travel.
“We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually reopen, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel,” he said in a statement.
In April, Etihad announced it was trialing new self-service technology to monitor the temperatures, heart rates and respiratory rates of any traveller using an airport touch point, including check-in kiosks and security points.
According to the airline, the thermal-imaging cameras will sound an alarm should anyone with a temperature higher than 37,9°C degrees pass through Abu Dhabi’s International Airport.
“This technology is not designed or intended to diagnose medical conditions,” said Jorg Oppermann, vice-president hub and midfield operations at Etihad Airways.
“It is an early warning indicator which will help to identify people with general symptoms so they can be further assessed by medical experts, potentially preventing the spread of some conditions to others preparing to board flights to multiple destinations.”