Middle Seat Removal: Not Profitable To Airlines—Onyema, Air Peace Boss


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As  critical stakeholders in the aviation discuss the way forward in as COVID-19 ravage the sector,  the Chairman of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema has stated that airlines in the country does support the removal of the middle seat, which has generated a lot of controversy.

This is just as he posited that airlines have devised measures to ensure limited contact during boarding as well as safeguard passengers.

Onyema stated this at a virtual conference with the theme, “Nigeria’s Aviation Industry: Changing Times, Changing Strategies” organised by the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) , an umbrella body of the journalists reporting aviation .

Onyema contended that besides the constant disinfection of aircraft, passengers are not likely to be infected by Coronavirus on board the aircraft but that it could do so around the airport or any other environment before they get to the boarding area.

Speaking further, Onyema disclosed that airlines have look for a way to minimize contact on boarding the aircraft

According to him, “COVID-19 can be contracted anywhere and at any environment. We have devised a way to board and reduce contact a lot by first calling for the right window seat and after that is done and they are settled,  we can call for the middle seats then. After that we can call the left window seat then you can call in the aisle seat at the right and then the aisle seat at the left. This will ensure interaction is minimal. If we leave the middle empty then the least ticket would be N100, 000, which will not be good for airline and passengers.”

Similarly, the Principal Managing Partner of Avaero Capital, Sindy Foster agreed with the Air Peace Chairman’s submission.

She argued that removal of middle seats from the aircraft would not do airlines any good

In her words, “It is a ridiculous idea for airlines and it won’t work and it is unnecessary. We have to look at the disadvantage and majorly, a lot of people will have limited capacity for travel by air.”

Speaking further,  the Avaero Capital Principal Managing Partner  called on the stakeholders to make aviation sector attractive, adding that it is when the industry is attractive that investors would be eager to invest

“The industry needs to attract investment for investors to invest in it.  Investment in aviation is important and it is the responsibility of everyone in the industry to make the industry attractive. Meaning there must be corporate governance in every aspect of the industry and majorly airlines and the negative publicity needs to stop. Players have to be law abiding, recent events in all media have painted the industry negatively so as players it is our responsibility to end that,”  she said.

On his part, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Hamisu Yadudu noted that 2020 was the only year aviation activities were grounded worldwide.

He stated that most of countries in the world did not envisage the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and that explains the havoc it wrecked.

Yadudu further posited that the responses and guidelines of agencies to rebound and reposition the aviation industry sector could only work with massive cooperation among member states.

In his words, “We all need the cooperation of each other, the success of our responses is not the responsibility of only one agency. It will be good for all stakeholders to cooperate if we fail to cooperate, the essence of the responses and guidelines will be jeopardised. Our protocols are out and our doors are open to suggestions.”

Speaking at the virtual meeting, the Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau, Nigeria (AIB-N),Engr. Akin Olateru , assured that sector would rebound the post-COVID-19 era.

He advised airline operators, ground handlers and other critical stakeholders in the sector to think outside the box to be able to compete and survive the post COVID-19 era.

The AIB-N lamented that the outbreak of Coronavirus has led to the shutting down of  viable business organisations, further advising them to review their business strategies to remain afloat in post COVID-19 era.

According to Olateru, “Everybody’s income has shrunk, every family needs to readjust, the only way to survive is thinking out of the box. There is need to begin to think of how to be a gainer in this situation; there is need to review our strategies. FAAN, NCAA need to support businesses, bailout is not going to last forever. There must be a strong collaboration by everyone.”

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Capt. Musa Nuhu, has stated that the reopening of five major airport on June 21,2020, may not be feasible

Nuhu, who was represented by Director, Consumer Protection Directorate, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, however, said that the agency was ready for the reopening of the airports, and that everything had been put in place.

  • “The June 21 date for the reopening of some of the airports is not sacrosanct. Aviation authorities still need to report their readiness to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, which will in turn give the approval to reopen the airports,” he said.

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