A United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA) Licensed Aircraft Dispatcher and Ground Instructor , Mrs Victoria Jumoke Adegbe has prescribed ways airlines can stay afloat as global aviation navigates it way out of COVID-19.
She said while many domestic carriers were hanging by the thread prior to COVID-19 with large percentage of their earnings gulped by expenditure on aviation fuel, aircraft maintenance, aircraft lease payments ,aeronautical charges , personnel emoluments and sundry charges , continued lock down occasioned by Corona Virus has exacerbated the woes of indigenous airlines.
Citing reports from International Air Transport Association (IATA), she said Nigerian carriers have so far lost over $760 million warranting calls for direct financial support to passenger and cargo carriers to compensate for reduced revenues and liquidity attributable to travel restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19.
Adegbe said many Nigerian carriers were showing suicidal symptoms as some of them could barely meet their obligations with disclosure that they would not pay workers salaries during the period of the lockdown.
She further said pointing out IATA’s latest report that the airlines be assisted by “direct financial support to passenger and cargo carriers to compensate for reduced revenues and liquidity attributable to travel restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19.”
Also, “rebates on payroll taxes paid to date in 2020 and/or an extension of payment terms for the rest of 2020, along with a temporary waiver of ticket taxes and other Government-imposed levies.” The report predicts the COVID-19 pandemic could cost the aviation industry worldwide up to $113 billion.
She however stated her observations as an Aircraft Dispatcher and several times as a frequent traveller, of one thing that stands clear as the major culprit in the spread of this pandemic at the airports.
“The airport trays used at the screening points which have been touched by millions of passengers seems to be the major culprit.”
“Have you ever wondered how come thermal monitors didn’t detect those with COVID-19? Of course, they caught it while checking in.”
“Now our drowning airlines just might latch on to the fact that the government could have done something about the trays but chose not to.”
To buttress her point further, Victoria Adegbe cited a report published by The New York Times on Sept 5th, 2018, it was stated that the plastic trays used at airport checkpoints around the world and touched by millions of passengers as they drop their carry-on and other items for X-ray scanning harbour a variety of germs.
A Forbes publication also supports the germ spreading capacity of the “disgusting airport trays”. The report was backed by research gathered from the Helsinki airport in Finland research that the trays carried various viruses such as rhino virus (which causes common cold), Coronavirus, Adenovirus and influenza A.
She asks “Why should the screening trays that should scan for your protection on board against terrorism be the same one that has turned as a weapon to inflict you?”
“So post COVID-19 don’t be surprised that the airlines might consider suing the government for not taking proactive measures to burn the trays and use a better option of disposable trash bags for screening.” “Now while suing the government might seem tempting, that could drag on endlessly as the impact of COVID-19 on all, government inclusive has been unprecedented.”
To stay afloat as an airline operator, Victoria suggests the airlines convert some of their passenger aircraft for cargo operations. You could transport medical supplies, agricultural products and other forms of freight she states.
“The cost of freight forwarding has more than tripled since COVID-19 so you might want to take advantage of that.
A number of international airlines such as American Airlines, Korean Air and Cathay Pacific has already started using some of their passenger aircraft for cargo.”
Victoria went further with her advice that more than ever before, Aircraft Dispatchers could actually come to the airline rescue. They work in the Operations Control.They’re trained to help the airlines. They know how to analyse scenarios, increase profitability and efficiency in the airlines without jeopardising safety.
“If you do consider cargo operations, your Aircraft/ Flight Dispatchers would work with your engineers to ascertain aircraft weight limitations and other parameters. “
She encouraged airlines to request that the government considers relieving them of certain airline charges, levies and taxes or better still loan them the funds to help them stay afloat.
In closing, she suggests that while everyone is making serious adjustments to their lifestyle, the government might want to take a critical look into burning the plastic trays used at airport security screening points. This will definitely help curb the rate of spread of the virus during flights.