MANAGING Director Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu has said that despite the accompanying challenges ushered in by COVID-19, restricting personal assistants, protocol officers and orderlies of dignitaries to access some parts of the airport terminals, the airport managers have improved its protocol services to bridge the gap created.
Speaking at the 8th International Protocol Officer’s Conference (IPOC) held at the NIGAV Centre, Murtala Muhammed International Airport on Protocol Services and the Airport Corridor, the FAAN boss said everything being done with protocols at the airports is to avoid a chaotic scene stressing that as part of the Ease of Doing Business initiative, Federal Government approved only the FAAN Protocol Service Unit to engage in commercial protocol activities at the airports.
Yadudu who was represented by Director of Administration & Human Resources, Norris Anozie, protocol has become more important for the agency because it is a critical component of the airport facilitation chain.
He said,”You can imagine a situation whereby on a British Airways flight landing in Lagos, there are about 100 dignitaries on the flight, and each of them want protocol services to speed up and ease their facilitation through the airport. If protocol officers of these dignitaries are allowed into the arrival hall to facilitate their bosses, the whole environment will become chaotic and disorganized.
“This is why the Federal Government, as part of its Ease of Doing Business initiative approved only the FAAN Protocol Service Unit to engage in commercial protocol activities at our airports. This decision was carefully and thoughtfully arrived at to ensure that protocol activities at our airports are properly streamlined to complement our facilitation model.
“Consequently, the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 approved that only travelling passengers should be granted access into the airports till the virus is effectively contained. The implication of the above directive is that Personal Assistants, Protocol Officers and Orderlies of dignitaries that hitherto could access some parts of the airport terminals can no longer do same, except they are travelling with their bosses.
“However, to mitigate the effects of these developments and to close the gap that has been created; we have strengthened and re-positioned the FAAN Protocol Service Unit to deliver more effectively and efficiently,”he said.
In her presentation titled Protocol Approach to Public Relations in a Fast Changing World and Redefining Airport Protocol to improve Travel Facilitation, General Manager Corporate Communication, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu said the COVID-19 pandemic without mincing words, has created a crisis environment.
According to her, Protocol and Public Relations which both function like Siamese for effectiveness, best results and success have been hugely impacted by the global challenges but emphasized that the new normal now takes precedence over the way things were done.
She said in Redefining Airport Protocol, the goal now is to make air travel safer, healthier and more comfortable for all users of airport stressing that new “normals” have to be crafted and practiced in order to improve the travel experience, with new expectations met for customers, workers, communities and diverse economies across the globe.
Mrs. Yakubu expatiated that FAAN was emphasizing on developing new travel policies for the sector, new terminal designs, new protocol covering boarding processes as well as greater shift towards touchless travel, supported by technology and digital tools.
she said, “An example of this, is the new policy directive by the Federal Government of Nigeria stating that only the FAAN Airport Protocol Service Unit is now permitted to carry out commercial protocol facilitation at the nation’s airports. In the past, it was free for all, a situation where protocol officers of companies are allowed access to the terminal to assist their executives.
“However, the situation has changed now, as only travelling passengers are allowed access to the terminal.
“Coincidentally, FAAN had re-positioned the FAAN Protocol Service Unit to deliver services more effectively and efficiently. Pushing the boundaries further, FAAN is at an advanced stage of launching an app that will provide for companies to register, book, and make payments for airport protocol services from the comfort of their offices, without necessarily having to visit the airports. All of these measures have been put in place to curtail the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as drive greater efficiency in airport facilitation.
On new terminal designs she averred,”Another fall out that is emerging from the fact that we are living in a fast changing world is the need to improve in airport terminal designs to accommodate some of the new realities we have to live with.
“As it is now, the protocol for boarding and getting off aircraft have changed significantly. These procedures now are more organized and orderly to promote the health status of all parties involved. The whole process of travel facilitation is moving more towards less of human interaction to use of technology. For example there is the increased use of online check-ins.