Domestic airline operators have been forced to reduce their airline passenger numbers by about fifty percent in a bid to abide by the social distancing protocols as part of measures to control the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The decision follows the resumption of domestic flights after about a month of inactivity due to the closure of Ghana’s borders and the three-week partial lockdown imposed on Accra and parts of the Ashanti Region.
A visit to the Terminal 2 of the Kotoka International Airport to assess the situation showed that the airlines have also intensified other safety protocols to reassure their customers.
The domestic airlines resumed operations from Friday, May 1, 2020, although international passenger flights are still barred operating in Ghana’s airspace except for the movement of cargo.
A flight schedule available to Citi Business News prior to the resumption of work indicated that at least twelve flights would take off from Accra to Kumasi and Tamale and vice versa, between Friday, May 1st and Sunday, May 3rd.
Interacting with some of the airline operators, the flights scheduled for the first day, witnessed relatively satisfactory patronage.
The Sales and Marketing Manager for Passion Air, Samuel Razak Tachie, explained the new protocols that have been put in place with the enforcement of enhanced safety measures.
“As soon as you enter the terminal building, you have a mandatory temperature check and you proceed to sanitize your hands. At the check-in counter, there are also markings on the floor [2 meters apart] which allows passengers to ensure social distancing while checking in or purchasing their tickets at the airport,” he said.
Mr. Tachie also explained the reduced passenger numbers and the impact they anticipate that will have on the company’s profit margins.
“Our aircraft has a capacity of 78, and based on the issue of social distancing, our numbers have reduced considerably. We used to have four passengers on a row but now, we take two passengers on a row.”
He added, “Definitely it will have significant effect, but we just started operations and that will be taken into consideration over time. We should be able to tell the impact probably in a few weeks or in a month’s time.”
Citi Business News also understands that the pandemic has led to the employment of new set of personnel such as public health officers who are to disinfect the aircraft before and after each flight.
In an interview with Citi Business News, the Public Health Officer for Passion Air, Kwasi Safo Boakye, explained his role terms of compliance to the directives from the Port Health Directorate.
“I am to make sure that the planes are disinfected before use anytime the passengers have to fly. So we do it early in the morning and whenever they get to their destinations, another disinfection exercise is carried out before passengers board them to be brought to Accra,” he said.
With Ghana’s case count hitting 2,169 as at Saturday, May 2, 2020, the patronage of domestic airlines is equally yet to see a pick-up.
But the operators are optimistic of a rebound anytime soon.