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RwandAir confident demand for air travel will gradually pick up

RwandAir officials say they are confident demand for air travel will gradually pick up as countries prepare to open up borders and airlines finally resume operations after months of suspension.

The national flag carrier will resume operations on August 1, after nearly five months since the airline suspended operations due to Covid-19 global epidemic.

 

Rwandair CEO Yvonne Makolo said bookings are already coming in. 

 

“We are seeing, in terms of our forward bookings, demand on different routes,” she told members of different media organizations during a tour of the Kigali International Airport on Friday.

 

“The demand will grow gradually as passengers become more comfortable traveling during this pandemic,” she added.

Makolo admitted that there is a lot of anxiety among passengers during this time, but the airline is putting in place different measures to ensure that it is safe for passengers to travel.

An arrivals terminal at Kigali International Airport. Aviation authorities have stepped up efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus once passenger flights return to the skies. Photo: Sam Ngendahimana  

“We have put all measures in place as directed by ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation] and WHO [World Health Organisation] to make sure that our passengers and staff are safe when we resume operations,” she noted.

RwandAir will resume flights, starting with Africa destinations and Dubai in the Middle East, before increasing frequencies to other destinations as demand for air travel picks.

Flying will be different

The next time you are about to embark on a trip before the world gets the vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, prepare to have a whole different experience while flying on any aircraft.

Before flying, all passengers will have to show Covid-19 negative certificate, whether they are arriving, transiting or departing from Rwanda.

Passengers on departure will respect all health safety measures. Departing passengers from Kigali International Airport will be guided by physical distancing signs scattered around the airport.

Sanitisers will be available at check-in desks, counters, and passport control areas, while passengers will be welcomed by thermal imaging cameras deployed around departure and arrival areas to help identify people who may have Coronavirus.

Airport operators have put in place self-check in kiosks that allows passengers to check-in themselves without physically meeting ticketing agents. A passenger can spend less than a minute at the kiosk.

Every check-in counter is equipped with a sanitiser so that there’s no contamination through document handling, and counters are protected with glass visors.

Seats at the waiting area will be marked to direct passengers to leave a one-metre sit between every other passenger, allowing them to respect health measures of physical distancing.

Arrival passengers will respect the same health safety measures.

Onboard

Onboard RwandAir aircraft, the crew will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) – everything from gowns and goggles, to facemasks and gloves.

The boarding process will be conducted in respect of safety measures against Covid-19, and it will be conducted in small groups, starting at the back of the plane all the way to the front.

“We’ve made sure that the aircraft is thoroughly cleaned (through disinfection) after each flight,” Makolo said.

The airline chief said all aircraft are fitted with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which ensure that all the viruses and germs are extracted from the cabin to make sure that the cabin air is safe to breath.

“We have also modified our menu onboard to try and avoid contact between our crew and the passengers,” she said.

The airline is also implementing a policy of one piece of cabin luggage per passenger in order to avoid congestion on aisles and people touching too many bags on board.

Many aviation experts say that physical distancing on board does not make sense for airlines that want to make business during the pandemic, and RwandAir officials admit it will be nearly impossible.

“Physical distancing on board is very difficult,” she noted. “At the beginning we expect the traffic to grow gradually, so there will be enough space (in the beginning) to observe physical distancing.”

All passengers will have their masks on throughout their travel, and they will be encouraged to bring as many masks as possible to change them after every four hours, especially those on long-haul flights.

The aircraft will be constantly disinfecting surfaces to make sure they are clean.

According to Silas Udahemuka, the Director General Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, all eight foreign airlines that fly to Kigali have applied to reopen operations.

These include Qatar Airways, Brussels Airlines, KLM, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airways, and Kenya’s JamboJet, among others.

jbizimungu@newtimesrwanda.com

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