Chairman of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema says the airline has devised a new boarding system which will not only minimize contact inside the aircraft but help maintain the health guidelines instituted by the health authorities without being forced to skip the middle seat.
This is just as he explained that there were some initial misconceptions when the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) declared that airlines will operate via the slot system stating that the misunderstanding has been cleared up.
Onyema spoke after Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) conducted a successful simulation flight from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos to showcase its readiness to the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.
On what the airline has put in a place to show readiness Onyema said Air peace has devised an innovative boarding method to minimize contact and also implement some form of sanity boarding with Economy Class first before Business Class is seated.
He stated: “For us at Air Peace, we have devised a boarding process; I think every other airline should copy besides the disinfection and constant cleaning of the aircraft. In all of our stations, we have already stationed disinfecting equipment there. There are some that we have that will disinfect passengers before you board our aircraft you pass through it Air Peace has acquired it apart from the fact that we force you to clean your hands and sanitize.
“For your cloth assuming you’ve got COVID-19 on your clothes when you pass through our machine, turn round and round and get your cloth disinfected.
“When we are boarding, we are going to board the window seat on the right first, middle seat on the right after boarding the window seat then we go to the left; we board the window seat on the left, we then board middle seat on the left then we call on the aisle seat on the right to board after them we call the aisle seat on the left to seat down before we now bring in the window seat of the right Business Class to the board then we bring in the window seat of Business Class on the left to board before we bring in the right and left aisle to board respectively.
“So Business Class will board last because you don’t want them to be seated and people are passing through them to go to the economy. By so doing and remember we are going to give you mask and we will provide face shields. With all this you cannot get COVID-19, of
course, there will be temperature checks and if you are asymptomatic you cannot transmit to anyone else because you are wearing all these and adhering the guidelines,” he explained.
On the perceived impact of middle seat removal he reiterated, “We are totally against middle seat removal, its arrant nonsense because that middle seat cannot stop anyone who is going to get COVID-19 from getting it. In the first place, if you do only aisle and the window seats, it’s not up to two meters to start with, so what are we talking about?”
“So it’s nonsense we do not support it, but they are talking with the health authorities to let them know that they may be other things we could do to minimize the chances of getting COVID-19 onboard the aircraft and remember, these planes have what we call HEPA filters. HEPA filters are filters that recycle air and filters it, so what are we talking about here. If you employ the middle seat empty regime passengers should be ready to pay about N90, 000 minimum for a 40 minutes flight.
“No country can afford that, the processing power of the people cannot carry that and at the end of the day, you have fewer people flying making flying elitist. Aviation is not elitist; it is a necessary catalyst for economic growth everywhere.
On the slot misconception he told reporters that the airport authority meant well and for want of a better name, ‘slots’ were adopted but that FAAN was tinkering some sort of spacing between flights and not trying to implement the slot system as it is.
Onyema said: “Slot system, I’ve discussed with the Managing Director of FAAN maybe we should not call it slots, maybe we should call it another name. Maybe we should call it spacing or something else. Slot in the strict sense will not work but spacing one way or another is what they are trying to tinker, they tinker with that and see how that will help.”
Explaining some demerits of the slot system, he said: “If it is the natural slots it will not work because if I have 28 planes and I am employing people commensurate with the numbers I do and another person has two aircraft commensurate with what he does and you give the person four flights and you give me four flights; remember in Nigeria we don’t fly at night and so your capacity to fly is hampered so all of us have between 6:30 am or 7:00 am in the morning to 6 pm to fly the majority of the airports so within this period you limit, me to fly only three flights then you are inviting me to sack my staff, it will not work.”