AS the industry set for restart, stakeholders have said the campaign to remove middle seats is uneconomical to airlines, would make passengers pay way more and is totally unnecessary since aircraft come fitted with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter which sanitizes air in the cabin of aircraft.
This is just as only six Nigerian airlines are said have passed the air worthiness threshold while only three others have submitted their financial health status according to officials of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority.
Stakeholders in the industry Tuesday night (16TH June, 2020) in a virtual meeting titled Nigerian Aviation Stakeholders Rub Minds on ‘Status of Industry Restart’ sought the best way to restart the industry with various players providing their ideas.
Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema while making an argument against the removal of middle seats reasoned that purchasing power of average Nigerian is low, giving a scenario where the airlines will need to transfer the fares on the middle seats on passenger tickets.
He submitted that the move will discourage people from flying which is against the idea of the restart in the first place stating that if people do not fly, airlines will die.
“It will kill the airlines in Nigeria. Can Nigerians afford N70, 000 worth of ticket on less than one hour flight?”
Also in his submission, Area Manager, West Africa of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Dr. Samson Fatokun, relayed the global airlines’ association stance on the resumption of aviation activities stating: “We support the operationalization of the ICAO’ CART by Nigeria but warned that: airlines will not breakeven with proposed 70% load factor. HEPA filter sanitizes air in the cabin of aircraft.
A HEPA filter is a type of mechanical air filter; it works by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful particles such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and tobacco smoke. HEPA is good at removing larger particulate matter like pet dander, pollen and dust mites. Unfortunately, mold, VOCs, viruses, bacteria, and small particulates under 0.3 micrometers cannot be removed safely from the air with an HEPA-based air purifier.
Speaking on the airworthiness of airlines, Director, Airworthiness Standards, Engr. Ita Awak also surmised that, “six of the airlines have crossed the mark from the point of view of airworthiness.
And on disinfection he said: “We have asked all the airlines that they should use only reagents that are approved by the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) of their different aircraft types, to disinfect their machines.”
On the financial health of the airlines in the country, Director, Air Transport Regulation for NCAA, Grp Capt. (Rtd.) Edem Oyo-Ita said: “Only three airlines have submitted their financial health while waiting for others.” He also disclosed that the directorate is working on the confirming the status of the airlines’ insurance.
A former Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, in his submissions suggested a simulation before the real opening of the airports to passenger traffic.
“We need to assure passengers that it is safe to fly. A simulation exercise two days before the opening of the airports is encouraged.”
Sen. Hadi Sirika in his remark earlier said the whole purpose of the exercise is to get it right and marry ideas and suggestions for the betterment of our industry.
On the much discussed palliative for the industry, Sirika said the federal government is considering palliative for aviation sector in the country.
His words: “Palliative is being considered and it is for the whole industry. There will be a template and it would be fair to everyone in the industry.”
He further assured stakeholders that their input will be implemented by the government: “Nothing will go to the government unless it is something that is collectively agreed upon.”