The Malta Independent 25 October 2020, Sunday

Indepth: MIA to introduce social distancing tech; three years for industry to recover – CEO

INDEPTH online Tuesday, 2 June 2020, 13:26 Last update: about 6 months ago

As the Malta International Airport (MIA) prepares for its reopening, it will be introducing social distancing technology alongside a designated surveillance team while it will also be limiting its operations to direct fights only, MIA CEO Alan Borg said during this week's session of Indepth.

He also said that it will take up to three years for the airline industry to completely recover from the Coronavirus setback.

Following yesterday's press conference in which Prime Minister Robert Abela announced the next set of measures to be relaxed after the number of cases continue to diminish, including the reopening of the airport on 1 July, The Malta Independent's Media Consultant Rachel Attard spoke with MIA CEO Alan Borg who shared the airport's plans, leading up to this much awaited moment.

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During the interview, various points were raised including the challenges that the airport will be facing when it reopens, the measures that are being implemented to ensure that the Covid-19 pandemic is kept at bay and some of the regulations that passengers will have to abide by.

 

Social distancing technology, 'passengers only pass' areas and masks

Asked how the airport will make sure that social distancing rules are followed, Borg said that first and foremost, the airport will be reopening in a very limited manner so things will not be the same post-Covid as they were pre-Covid.

Nonetheless, MIA is also investing in more directional signs across the airport as well as social distancing technology.

This technology entails a system which detects groups of people that are not following social distancing regulations. It then sends a signal to a designated surveillance team who will disperse the crowd as needed, Borg explained.

"We are also investing in measures which will limit the contact between staff and passengers, like technology that permits scanning of boarding passes without needing to hand it to the check-in agent," he added.

He also pointed out that discussions are underway to make certain areas restricted to just passengers, meaning the general public will not have access unless they were on a flight or will be boarding one.

This includes check-in areas, terminals and other areas that passengers have to get through before boarding the flight or upon arriving at the airport. The intention is for passengers to not mix with customers who go to the airport for recreational or retail activities.

He was asked about the use of masks throughout the airport and if the airport has consulted health authorities about that type of masks need to be used by passengers. 

"I can say that masks have to be used at all times in all areas of the airport all the way to the flight itself," he said. "In terms of our staff and front liners we want to make sure that they are equipped with visors and specific masks that are being suggested by the health authorities (N95) and we are currently consulting about what masks need to be used by passengers."

He did not clarify how much the investment will cost but he indicated that it will be a six digit number.

 

Only direct flights allowed, three years till industry recovers

During the interview, it was pointed out that some of the 18 countries which the PM announced will be sharing flights with Malta, do not have direct flights to our island.

Asked to explain what the plan in this regard is, Borg said that he thinks it is quite difficult to expect that we will have immediate operations start with all 19 destinations mentioned starting from 1 July.

He said that whoever does not have a direct flight, technically, cannot come into Malta at all as the regulations on which the airport will reopen require a person to have resided in a the country of departure for a minimum of four weeks.

Borg thinks that it will not be easy to ensure that people follow these regulations especially if they are coming from a Schengen destination wherein one does not have boarders to check into. "We are not sure what regulations the countries will be following since we are responsible for the airport not the relationship between countries," he said, however, the airport is in touch with all of its airlines to evaluate which markets it will be able to have direct flights with.

He speculated that the industry will be facing a though three years as he believes that it will take this long for the industry to revert to how it was pre-Covid. 


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