South African Airports COVID-19 Ready, says Mbalula

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has expressed confidence that the aviation industry and South Africa’s airports will adhere to COVID-19 regulations and directives, as the sector reopens. See below for the process passengers will now go through to travel by air.

Airport Social Distancing
PHOTO: SA Gov News

Speaking on Wednesday at the O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, where he was inspecting the airport’s adherence to lockdown regulations and directions, Mbalula said: “I am confident that our airports will play a central role in reigniting the economy, reconnecting our economic hubs, while strictly operating under these conditions.”

During the visit to ORTIA, the Minister observed the social distancing, vending machines for personal protective equipment (PPE) and how cabins are being disinfected and prepared as restriction flight operations resume.

“I am satisfied that the airport has started out well and we expect this to continue. Now that we have started with opening up aviation, we must look ahead with determination in order for the transport sector to perform its vital economic role.”

He said the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has approved the procedures for OR Tambo and Cape Town International, and is currently reviewing the procedures for King Shaka International.

Level 3 regulations for airline travel

At the weekend, the Minister outlined regulations at which airlines would resume operations under lockdown level 3:

  • Only passengers are allowed inside the terminal buildings.
  • Temperature screening will become a norm at terminal building entrances before any passenger is allowed entry.
  • Passengers without facemasks will not be given access to terminal buildings, Mbalula said.
  • The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) is expected to ensure effectiveness of the sanitisation process before entering the terminal buildings, which may result in the number of entrances being reduced.
  • “All the airports will have markings on the floor for social distancing of 1.5 metres. This will be applicable at check-in counters, security checkpoints and airport lounges,” the Minister said.
  • At boarding gates, boarding will be staggered and prioritised in terms of the number of passengers waiting to board. Sectional boarding will be implemented to avoid unnecessary contact inside the aircraft.
  • “Inside the cabin, full capacity will be allowed. It must be noted that the risk of COVID-19 infection on board a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces. All our commercial aircrafts are fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. These are manufactured to the same standard as those used in hospital operating theatres and industrial clean rooms, with the same efficacy of 99.97% in removing viruses,” Mbalula said.
  • Catering and magazines will not be allowed in the cabin. Last rows to be reserved for isolation of suspected cases, should they be detected on board.
  • Loading capacity for all airport buses must be limited to 70%. The buses must be disinfected after off-loading. Drivers, baggage handlers and ground handlers must be fully equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE),” said the Minister.
  • On arrival, all passengers will be screened as they enter terminal buildings, with suspected cases referred to Port Health.

Today, the Transport Minister said: “In terms of the readiness of the airlines, I would like to state that the airlines, including charters, have also submitted their procedures, which are being reviewed by the SACAA.”