THE financial impact of Covid- 19 has been huge to the aviation industry.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) had projected that passenger revenues could fall to as much as USD 419 billion this year. Trying to encourage more people to travel is one of the industries formidable tasks across the globe.
For Emirates Airlines Country Manager to Tanzania, Mr Majjid Al Falasi, he is optimistic despite the gloom and doom as the airline is taking measures to ensure that passengers are safe throughout their journeys.
Having taken over the Tanzania office early last year, the Covid-19 pandemic found him in Dares Salaam and flights to Tanzania resumed at the beginning of August this year as well as cargo services.
The Country Manager stresses that Dubai remains highly attractive to international visitors and the city reopened to tourists on 7 July, and within the three weeks after the opening there were more than 1.6 million searches for destination Dubai.
Over the last two years, the Airline had seen progressive growth in passenger demand to and from Dar es Salaam. Between 2017 and 2019, Emirates carried close to 300,000 passengers between Dar es Salaam and Dubai.
Like Tanzania, Dubai was one of the world’s first cities to obtain Safe Travels stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) – which endorses Dubai’s comprehensive and effective measures in every category to ensure guest health and safety.
Mr Falasi would like to assure Tanzanian travellers that they are safe every step of the journey. The Airline has implemented a comprehensive set of measures to ensure the safety of its customers and employees on the ground and in the air.
“To offer peace of mind and reassurance to customers, Emirates was the first airline to provide free cover on Covid-19 related medical expenses should a customer be diagnosed with Covid-19 during their travel while being away from home."
Travellers from Tanzania can travel with confidence and assurance as the cover is immediately effective for customers flying on Emirates until 31 October 2020. The first flight to be completed on or before 31 October 2020 and is valid for 31 days from the moment they fly the first sector of their journey, said Mr Falasi.
He agrees that social distancing on board is something that is discussed a lot, at the same time it is not practical for airlines to introduce. According to experts, there is little confirmed evidence of on board Covid-19 transmission between passengers as the risk is considered low.
“In the first place, it’s unlikely that an infected person will sit next to you considering government health screening and pre-departure biosafety measures,” Mr Falasi observes. In addition, since the beginning of August, all passengers flying to and through Dubai require negative Covid-19 PCR test certificates before they can board.
On the other hand, the Airline has noticed that passengers appreciate the privacy and personal space afforded by the First Class Private Suites and Business Class seats with privacy dividers, as well as the superior level of comfort and service both in the air and on the ground.
This includes the Business Class Lounge in Terminal 3 Concourse B at Dubai International Airport and Chauffeurdrive service. “On business travel, we are seeing an uptick in Business Class demand on our flights, especially to important global commercial and trade centres,” Mr Falasi says.
On the ground, Emirates provides complimentary hygiene kits to be given to every passenger upon check in at Dubai International Airport and on flights to Dubai. Protective barriers at each checkin desk and immigration counter have been installed to provide additional safety reassurance to passengers and employees during interaction over the counter.
All cabin crew on board are fully kitted out in PPEs. To uphold the highest standards of safety and hygiene, Emirates has added a cabin service assistant (CSA) to the crew complement on flights over 1.5 hours to ensure lavatories are cleaned at frequent intervals of every 45 minutes.
This pandemic has disrupted many business models, including airlines and satellite and data providers. When Emirates was flying a full fleet, it was able to purchase data in bulk, which made offering a free WiFi service feasible even though the airline still subsidised the service with millions of dollars every year.
Live TV was hugely popular on Emirates’ flights, with sports being the greatest attraction. The service comes with significant data and licensing costs. With fewer global sporting events at the moment, LiveTV has much reduced value.
Passengers can keep up to date with the news headlines either via their mobile phone data roaming or via a WiFi package. “Like all airlines, we’ve had to adapt our inflight offering to the current situation, but we are monitoring developments closely and look forward to resuming these popular services when practicable,” Mr Falasi says.
Asked to comment on the future of the aviation industry, Mr Falasi had this to say “As an airline, our aim is to operate as a lean, agile organisation through utilising cutting-edge technology to make the on ground and on board journeys safe, enjoyable and seamless for our customers. Once we have recovered most of our operations, we will connect passengers through an even broader network than we have today. We will continue to prioritise innovation through our products and services,” he says.