• August 15th, 2020

Social distancing makes flying exorbitant

Air Namibia, as a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), does not support social distancing protocols on its aircraft as this would leave its ‘middle seats’ empty and result in the cost of air-tickets becoming costly.  
Social distancing on aircraft is in line with IATA’s stance, which points out that with fewer seats to sell, unit costs on aircraft would go up dramatically, by as much as 54% depending on the region, just to cover the cost of flying.

According to IATA, evidence suggests the risk of transmission of the virus on board the aircraft is low while the global flight association says the wearing of masks by passengers will reduce the possible transmission of the virus.
Responding to questions from New Era, an Air Namibia spokesperson said the national airline takes this stance on social distancing on flights, provided that all the other necessary precautions are put in place. “The airline has taken reasonable and practical measures to ensure maximum safety and personal protection for our passengers, employees and other stakeholders, to curb the spread of coronavirus. Our measures are aligned to government’s directive under Stage 2 of the lockdown,” said Twaku Kayofa. 

He noted that since the airline restarted its domestic operations on 6 May 2020, various measures have been implemented. Now both passengers and crew are required to wear masks in public spaces and throughout the flight.
Also, whilst on board, passengers are required to face forward with limited face to face interactions while Air Namibia will limit movement within the cabin during the flight. Furthermore, passengers are encouraged to carry their sanitisers for on board use, provided these do not exceed the items classified as dangerous goods limit of 100 ml per passenger.

“Since restarting our operations, we continue to encourage our clients to use our online platforms for booking reservations, booking changes and issuing of tickets. To incentivise, Air Namibia is offering 10% discount on all online bookings. Air Namibia will conduct mandatory temperature screening of passengers and crew before boarding,” Kayofa noted.
He continued that all passengers and crew members will be sanitised before entering the aircraft cabin and the airline will disinfect its aircraft at each station before passenger boarding. 

“Our crew members are required to wear full Personal Protective Equipment. Upon check-in, passengers will be briefed to maintain and practice social distancing and social hygiene throughout the process. Also, disinfecting the aircraft more frequently and deeper cabin cleaning regularly will curb the further spread of the virus,” he said.

Last week, IATA said social distancing measures on aircraft would fundamentally shift the economics of aviation by slashing the maximum load factor to 62%. That is well below the average industry breakeven load factor of 77%. IATA does support the wearing of face coverings for passengers and masks for crew while on board aircraft as a critical part of a layered approach to biosecurity to be implemented temporarily. “The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to restart flying when this can be done safely. Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. And we will take measures - such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew - to add extra layers of protection. We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO. 

However, IATA does not recommend restricting the use of the ‘middle seat’ to create social distancing while onboard aircraft, saying that evidence, although limited, suggests the risk of virus transmission on board aircraft is low.  “The cabin environment naturally makes transmission of viruses difficult for a variety of reasons. That helps explain why we have seen little occurrence of onboard transmission. In the immediate term, our aim is to make the cabin environment even safer with effective measures so that passengers and crew can return to travel with confidence. Screening, face coverings and masks are among the many layers of measures that we are recommending. Leaving the middle seat empty, however, is not,” stated de Juniac.
– ebrandt@nepc.com.na

Edgar Brandt
2020-05-12 10:01:58 | 3 months ago

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