- What’s was the situation like at Lanseria International Airport during the COVID-19 lockdown?
RR. The airport was under lock down from 26 March 2020 until 30 April 2020 except for medivac flights. The easing of the lockdown restrictions from 01 May 2020 saw a resumption of limited services from the General Aviation market followed by domestic business travel for the commercial air services operators. International passenger and cargo services are still restricted.
2. In preparing to open up the airports under new health guidelines. What went through in the preparations of the flight resumption?
RR. As an airport we followed strict guidelines given by the Department of Health, the World Health Organisation, Department of Transport and the South African Civil Aviation Authority. Our priority was the safety of our passengers, staff and all the other stakeholders when operations resumed. We had meetings with our stakeholders to identify additional measures that we needed to put in place and make sure all areas were covered. Before the lockdown we had initiated the sanitizer project, sanitisers were fitted in all high-volume areas for both staff and passengers to use.
We initiated the social distancing protocols both in the queuing system and in the restaurants, lounges all the way down to the boarding gates. We also initiated various programs like the cleaning and sanitisation of trolleys, trays which is done on each and every tray before it is handled. We went a step further by initiating contactless check-in and boarding where the passengers present their particulars and paperwork for inspection with no physical contact in addition to our already existing technology which is scan and fly, a contactless self-bag check-in and tag system. We are the only airport in Africa with this system.
3. Lanseria International Airport was reopened together with the other main airports in South Africa as part of the golden triangle. How has the airport’s operations been under Covid19 regulations?
RR. Operations, like any other airport in the country, are severely strained. We are limited to business and essential travel and this has affected our load factors. The diminishing buying power of passengers is also affecting operations and we are sure to see this trend for the next two years whilst the world is trying to recover from this pandemic.
“We have various plans in the pipeline, one of our mid to long term plan is to expand our offering into Africa” – Rampa Rammopo
4. You cater for both low cost travelers and business private passengers. How are the passengers adapting to the new travel protocols?
RR. The passengers have adapted very well to the new way of travel and according to a survey that is run by Flysafair we have been scoring pretty well on the Net promoter score. Passengers are anxious about being in any space but at Lanseria we have gone out of our way to assure and ensure their safety.
5.What challenges do you see in rebuilding passenger confidence post COVID-19?
RR. There are various challenges but remember that rebuilding confidence is not only going to be in our sector alone, it is going to be a challenge in very aspect of life. I think the biggest challenge will be to get people to trust being in a plane for over 8 to 12 hours flying from one destination to the other. For the domestic and regional flights that are normally 2 or 3 hours we might not have a big issue and planes are currently allowed to load 100%. This is a new norm for all of us and some of the challenges will surface as we go and we will have to deal with them as they come along.
6. How can African airports build resilience to survive future challenges?
RR. Technology, technology is leading the way and airports have to adapt to the use of technology. We have already initiated various technological advancements that will see us become a smart airport in the next few years. With technology we will be able to minimise some of the impacts and we will see travel change drastically. We have to embrace technology for us to be able to tackle what the future has in store for us.
7. Do you think there is more room for private airports in Africa?
RR. Definitely, private airports provide a much-needed alternative. African cities are growing and with their growth demand for air travel is created. As the cities grow the traditional airport becomes too far for some residents to travel and some governments are hard pressed for money to be able to fund building another airport. The private sector provides that much needed cash injection and also gives the people that alternative and creates job’s in the process which means economic development for the area where the airport Is located.
8. Governments have been providing relief to state airports and airlines across the world. Do you think relief must be limited to public institutions or must be done across board? If yes, why?
RR. It has to be done across the board. We all pay taxes and this pandemic has no favour, it has affected everyone whether private or state owned.
9. In your view, how will African Aviation change after the COVID-19 pandemic?
RR. There will be various changes, l think African aviation will adopt more technological innovations but we might also have changes in a negative way. African airlines are under immense pressure right now as per a recent article, some will survive some might not. There will be a greater move to selling some of the stakes in the state airlines to private funders which will change the landscape immensely. There will be greater moves to profitability and building nest eggs to shield the sector in the future. For now, we can only speculate but there will be a definite shift in mind sets.
The implementation of SAATM is now more urgent than any time before, and African governments should take this opportunity and open their skies. The recovery period would therefore be reduced significantly.
10. What plans are there for LIA to attract traffic both in the mid and long term?
RR. We have various plans in the pipeline, one of our mid to long term plan is to expand our offering into Africa. This will include speaking to various airlines to offer services to and from Lanseria. With the advent of the smart city that was announced by the President during SONA, Lanseria is going to become a focal point both economically and socially and we will take advantage of this to grow our footprint both domestically and regionally.
11. Do you think there is a need for African airports to consider Joint Venture (JV) post COVID-19 pandemic?
RR. Yes, there is, joint ventures are essential. There is knowledge and resource sharing and they can also bring stability in times of a crisis from a financial perspective. In Africa more than ever now we are competing with airports in developed countries and joint ventures will assist us in perfecting our offering giving the passenger that travel experience that is unparalleled.
12. How long do think it will take for African aviation to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic?
RR. A recent report said two years, l guess this is an informed estimate we will ride the storm and see.
13. What is your message to the millions of African aviation workers at this difficult time?
RR. We are going through a tough time due to the pandemic but we will overcome. It might look bleak but as an industry we are resilient and hopefully we will start seeing the light at the end of this tunnel soon.
14. What is the one thing you would want to see African airports improve on?
RR. Customer service.
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