It’s been months since international and domestic flight have been suspended in and out of Nigeria. Thankfully, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) announced that domestic flights will resume on July 8. Grounded for many months, airlines are coming up with new plans and restructuring of their schedules—though the number of flights will be a fraction of their pre-pandemic frequency. No doubt things won’t be going back soon to how they should be before Covid-19. Flying will be a different experience in the age of coronavirus. So what should your expectations for travelling be?
A boast for domestic tourism
There is going to be a boom in domestic and regional tourism. With the European Union’s recent ban on travel for some countries including Nigeria, most avid Nigerian travellers will have to experiment with local destinations or their safe zones, and this will create new habits and new markets. Many of these travellers whose favourite travel destinations are typically romantic European destinations will have little or no choice but to reconsider local tourism and countries close by with open borders. Some might opt not to move around at all, especially the elderly.
Travelling will take more time
Travelling will be more strenuous; for airports which are most times crowdy places, obeying rules and safety guidelines of keeping safe will require a lot to be done and this can create uneasiness for travellers. The stringent health check and two metres social distancing rule will create a necessity for travellers to arrive earlier than your usual for flights else you might end up missing the trip after the rigorous checks are over.
Hike in the price of flight tickets
The aviation industry lost a lot amidst the lockdown. With the gradual return of flight travel and a need to enforce social distance or even a lower turn out of passengers, airlines will be left with a limited choice which might cause a hike the price of air tickets.
A redesign of aviation safety measures
Aircraft seat designers are already giving new design proposals to adhere to social distancing. Although this might take some time before airlines adopt this, most airlines are already leaving out the middle seat empty to place a vacant seat between individual passengers or family groups. Cabin baggage has also been banned by airlines like Emirate, allowing just laptop, handbag, or a small briefcase. To limit touch, magazines and print reading material would no longer be offered onboard.
Some airlines like Qatar Airways and Emirates are making it mandatory for their staffs and air hostess to don personal protective equipment (PPE) which includes a protective disposable gown over their uniforms, and a safety visor, in addition to masks and gloves. In major airports like Abuja and Lagos, robots will be deployed around the airport to reduce human-human interactions.
Other airlines will also be giving a “wellness kit” which would contain the essentials like mask, gloves and a sanitizer. You would also be expected to wear mask and gloves all through from check-in until your disembark.
Technology such as thermal cameras is becoming more widespread at airports to detect anyone posing a risk to others. And not just that, technology giants like Apple and Google are also partnering on a contact-tracing software scheme that can notify users when travelling.
Airlines like Lufthansa are also putting in place, rapid COVID-testing centres at the airport so passengers can get tested hours before their flight, get their results and show this once they arrive at their destination. With this, quarantine can be waived off for such people in countries where it is mandatory for new arrivers.
Most passengers are also encouraged to check-in online to minimise face-to-face contact with staff.