RwandAir based in Africa expressed its confidence over restoration of its routes as countries across the world are opening up their air spaces and borders for tourism.
Set to resume its air operations at the end of next week, RwandAir officials said were confident that demand for air travel will gradually pick up as countries prepare to open up borders and as airlines resume operations after months of suspension.
Rwanda’s national flag carrier will resume operations on August 1, after nearly 5 months since the airline suspended operations due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Rwandair Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Yvonne Makolo said bookings are already coming in. “We are seeing, in terms of our forward bookings, demand on different routes,” she stated.
Makolo told the media a few days ago that demand for air travel will grow gradually as passengers become more comfortable traveling during this COVID-19 pandemic.
She 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.
Aviation authorities have stepped up efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus once passenger flights return to the skies and when the airlines resume domestic, regional, and international flights.
“We have put all measures in place as directed by ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] and WHO [World Health Organization] to make sure that our passengers and staff are safe when we resume operations,” Makolo told the media in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.
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 up.
Before flying, each passenger will have to show a COVID-19 negative certificate whether they are arriving, transiting, or departing from Rwanda, while passengers on departure will respect all health safety measures, Makolo added.
Departing passengers from Kigali International Airport will be guided by physical distancing signs scattered around the airport.
Sanitizers 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 the coronavirus.
Airport operators have put in place self-check in kiosks that allow passengers to check-in themselves without physically meeting ticketing agents. A passenger can spend less than one minute at the kiosk.
Every check-in counter is equipped with a sanitizer so that there is 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-meter space between every other passenger, allowing them to respect health measures of physical distancing. Arrival passengers will respect the same health safety measures.
While onboard RwandAir aircraft, the crew will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) 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.
She said all aircraft are fitted with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which ensure that all 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 in 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. At the beginning, we expect the traffic to grow gradually, so there will be enough space in the beginning to observe physical distancing,” Makolo noted.
All passengers will have their masks on throughout their travel journey, and they will be encouraged to bring as many masks as possible to change them after every 4 hours, especially those on long-haul flights.
The aircraft crew will be constantly disinfecting surfaces to make sure they are clean.
Silas Udahemuka, the Director General Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, said all 8 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.