Post COVID-19: Aviation Stakeholders Call For Automation Of Airports’ Operations

Some stakeholders in the aviation sector on Thursday called for total automation of airports operations to reduce human contacts in line with the post COVID-19 procedures.

They made the called at the aviation stakeholders’ Webinar meeting, organised by the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) in Lagos.

The topic of the meeting was: “Nigeria’s Aviation Industry: Changing Times, Changing Strategy”.

Dr Harold Demuren, former Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), said the only way to move the aviation industry forward was to ensure that all airports operations were fully automated.

“We need to align with the international best practices by checking in our luggage and booking tickets online without human interference,” Demuren said.

According to him, the process is already on at the Heathrow Airport, London, where luggage are picked at home and checked into the aircraft.

“This process will reduce the frequency of contacting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We should develop and embrace more scientific online technology approach at the airports,” he said.

The former NCAA director-general, however, urged stakeholders to explore the ongoing challenges in the sector and turn it to opportunities during post COVID-19 period.

Contributing, Dr Gbenga Olowo, President, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), said that one of the major challenges of the post COVID-19 era was checking in passengers into the aircraft without contacts.

Olowo aligned with other stakeholders’ call for automated systems at the airports to reduce human contacts.

He urged the airports authority to have a code for domestic airports for easy identification of terminals by passengers, while travelling.

According to him, all stakeholders have to show total commitment to the new procedures in the sector to enable it to succeed.

Contributing, the Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, urged stakeholders in the sector to work together toward addressing challenges confronting the industry.

Yadudu said: “Cooperation of all stakeholders has to be total, till the aviation sector starts working.

“We must ensure effective synergy among everybody, and must be proactive as a team in addressing the sector’s challenges.”

Also, Mr Allen Onyema, the Chairman, Air Peace, said palliatives were given to airlines all over the world, adding that Nigeria should not be left out of such largesse.

Onyema said the availability of such palliatives to airlines would prevent job losses in the nation’s aviation sector.

He, however, opposed the idea of leaving the middle seat of the aircraft empty, as a measure to guard against the Coronavirus.

Onyema said that the airlines had designed effective check-in arrangements that would address human contacts.

According to him, leaving the middle seat vacant does not mean one cannot contact COVID-19, adding that the process must be well-structured.

“If the middle seat is left empty, it will also increase the ticket fee.

“Local industries should be encouraged in Nigeria; civil service should see investors as partners,” he said.

Commenting, Mr Akin Olateru, the Commissioner/Chief Executive, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Ministry of Aviation, advised stakeholders to invest in lnformation Technology (IT) to improve services in the sector.

Olateru suggested the introduction of electronic process at the airports and the offline passengers check-in system.

“This is being done at the Heathrow Airport in London. All stakeholders should be thinking out of the box, simplify the process, to reduce human contacts.

“Aviation sector will flourish, but it is only those who can think out of the box that can make it,” he said.

The AIB commissioner noted that the aviation bailout would not last forever, urging everybody to review business activities to avoid losses.

Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi, Director, Department of Consumer Protection, NCAA, said the opening of airports in June would be subject to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 directive.

“The reopening of the domestic airports in June is sacrosanct, but still subject to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 directive, ” Abdullahi said.

He described the aviation industry as one of the most democratic sectors of the economy.