Aviation stakeholders use webinar to re-strategise for post COVID-19 survival

As the whole countries of the world individually and collectively rub minds on how to survive the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through the globe, Nigeria’s stakeholders are not left behind.

Leading Nigeria is its aviation sector where its stakeholders including the aviation agencies, airlines, ground handlers, tour operators amongst others gathered virtually last week to deliberate on the way forward for the sector to survive the scourge of the pandemic.

At a webinar organised by the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) titled “Nigeria’s Aviation Industry: Changing Times, Changing Strategies”, key players deliberated on how to make flying and other aviation business seamless for the traveling public when flight resumptions eventually kick off.

Stakeholders at the webinar unanimously described technology as a major solution to unburdening the COVId-19 impact.

Speaking at the webinar, Dr Gabriel Olowo, President of Sabre Network West Africa, emphasised that check-in would pose a serious challenge when flights resume asking how prepared the sector was towards safety and business.

A former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr Harold Demuren, in his contribution advised the sector to take advantage of the present disadvantage  and automate properly which he said would help reduce contact.

According to Demuren “You can do every ticket purchase, every check-in, even choose a seat via your laptop. You as journalists can help us advocate this. You cannot process 1000 people one by one and you should not have to, so the industry needs automation. Airport infrastructure also needs to improve”.

In the same vein, Chairman of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema while speaking on how airlines have all devised ways to ensure limited contact during boarding as well as safeguard passengers when flights resume, said though talks were ongoing on the development, he declared that airlines were not in support of the middle seat removal policy.

Onyema ruled out the possibility of passengers contracting the virus on board the aircraft due to the constant disinfection of aircraft.

Emphasising the efforts put on ground by airlines to ensure passengers on boarding flights have little or no minimal contact with fellow passengers declared: also ”COVID-19 can be contracted anywhere and it could be at any environment. We have devised a way to board and reduce contact a lot by first calling for the right window seat and after that is done and they are settled we can call for the middle seats then. After that we can call the left window seat then you can call in the aisle seat at the right and then the aisle seat at the left. This will ensure the interaction is minimal. If we leave the middle empty then the least ticket would be N100, 000, which will not be good for airline and passengers.”

For the Principal Managing Partner of Avaero Capital, Sindy Foster, while supporting the notion that removal of middle seats onboard flights was not to anyone’s advantage.

she stated ”It is a ridiculous idea for airlines and it won’t work, it is unnecessary and we have to look at the disadvantage and majorly, a lot of people will have limited capacity for travel by air.”

Also speaking on the need for infrastructure upgrade, Forster said the country needed to attract investment into the aviation sector even as she maintained that the only way to do so was to make the industry attractive for any investor.

Her words: “The industry needs to attract investment.  Investment in aviation is important and it is the responsibility of everyone in the industry to make the industry attractive. Meaning there must be corporate governance in every aspect of the industry and majorly airlines and the negative publicity needs to stop. Players have to be law abiding, recent events in all media have painted the industry negatively so as players it is our responsibility to end that.”

The six panelists who spoke extensively on the requirements for various segments of the sector to stay in business at the webinar are: the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, the Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Rabiu Yadudu, the Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Engineer Akin Olateru, the Group Managing Director, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, Mrs Olatokunbo Fagbemi, Chairman, Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema and Dr Gabriel Olowo, the President of Aviation Roundtable (ART), Elder Gabriel Olowo.

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