NATIONAL NEWS - In what is set to usher an unprecedented change in South Africa’s airline customer service, airline companies and passengers are expected to abide by stringent rules to contain the spread of Covid-19 through social distancing, baggage wrapping, self-check-in and sanitiser use.
Wednesday marked Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s approval of OR Tambo International Airport’s readiness to operate under alert level 3.
Enforced baggage wrapping – a departure from the past when passengers could check in unwrapped bags at any airport at no cost – is what clients will now have to become accustomed to.
At a media briefing, which followed a walkabout of OR Tambo by Mbalula, deputy minister Dikeledi Magadzi, Airports Company SA (Acsa) chief executive Mpumi Mpofu and SA Civil Aviation Authority director Poppy Khoza, Mbalula explained “the new normal”.
“Limited domestic air travel also means that flights will only be allowed to depart and land at selected airports in a phased manner,” he said. “Only passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings. Therefore, no accompanying members of the public will be allowed inside the terminal buildings.
“Temperature screening will be conducted at the terminal building entrances before any passenger is allowed entry.
“No passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings without masks.
“Acsa will ensure effectiveness of the sanitisation process, which may result in the number of entrances being reduced.
“All the airports will have markings on the floor for social distancing of 1.5 metres.
“This will be applicable at check-in counters, security checkpoints and airport lounges.
“At boarding gates, boarding will be staggered and prioritised in terms of the number of passengers to board.
“Sectional boarding will be implemented to avoid unnecessary contact inside the aircraft.
“Inside the cabin, full capacity will be allowed. It must be noted that the risk of Covid-19 infection on board a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces.
“All our commercial aircraft are fitted with the high efficiency particulate air (Hepa) filters, with an efficacy of 99.97% in removing viruses.
“I am satisfied that the airport has started out well and we expect this to continue.”