Increase in domestic air travel amid COVID-19 pandemic

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South Africans are regaining their trust in airlines amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as statistics show an increase in domestic air travel. That’s according to the Chief Operating Officer of the Airports Company South Africa, Fundi Sithebe, who was speaking at OR Tambo International Airport.

She accompanied Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, on his inspection of the OR Tambo and King Shaka Airports as well as domestic flights after he received complaints that some airlines do not adhere to the COVID-19 regulations.

Fikile Mbalula inspects COVID-19 adherence levels at OR Tambo International airport: 

Sithebe says there are 97% less passengers compared to 2019 due to COVID-19. She says passengers are slowly regaining confidence in air travel.

“Definitely the numbers are growing. The airports are safe. We saw in June 30 000 passengers for this particular airport; that’s departing and arriving. We saw an increase in July, which is why I’m saying there is definitely an increase in passengers’ confidence going to 80 000. Now in the month of August, it dropped slightly to 70 000. We are prepared and we welcome all the passengers to come through in their numbers.”

Measures to curb spread of COVID-19 at airports

In August, airports across South Africa implemented additional strict health and safety measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Minister Mbalula said that air travel is important to the country’s efforts to gradually open economic activity. The Civil Aviation Authority will be responsible for ensuring compliance with safety and health measures.

“Despite the movement to Alert Level 2, we will continue on the same trajectory until every one of our airports meets the strict protocols,” said Mbalula.

Passengers are expected to do a health screening.

“Passengers are now requested to do a health screening. They will check your temperature. The biggest change for us has been no mask, no entry. There is a health screening where they will ask you, ‘do you have shortness of breath? Have you been coughing?’ We also had to go change our processes, to be more contactless. The big thing we are encouraging our passengers to do is come early to allow for these processes to take place. A game-changer for us in a process called scan and fly which assists passengers to scan and tag their own bags and put it themselves on the conveyor belt,” said Lenseria Airport Chief Financial Officer Mpolaheng Mohlopi.

Airline industry cautious over resumption of flights: