First the family and friends will arrive, then the young sunseekers, then the weekend breakers.
That’s how the chief executive of Malta International Airport Alan Borg is predicting air passengers will trickle back to the island post shut down.
He expects the airport – closed to commercial flights since March 21 – to be the last coronavirus containment measure to be lifted.
Figures released on Thursday showed passenger numbers plunged by 99 per cent owing to a ban on travel.
Once the ban starts being lifted, passengers can expect to have their temperature checked, there will be less contact with staff and there will be improved hygiene throughout, Borg says.
“There are technologies that essentially help scan passengers and screen passengers in more detail than we used to. There are also technologies that enable the airport to have cleaner air and also cleaner infrastructure in general.
“Passengers will as much as possible limit contact with staff.”
Borg does not subscribe to the view, held by Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kye, that social distancing is “impossible” in aviation.
Instead, Borg is considering how to reconfigure Malta’s relatively small airport to make social distancing possible.
“We would limit seating if need be. We would have to limit aircraft movements at particular times, to make sure we don’t exceed a certain number of passengers at a particular time.
“We would change the passenger journey.”
He also expects the demographic of passengers to alter, predicting that health authorities will not allow the ones that fall into the “vulnerable” category to fly until a vaccine is found.
“Obviously I’m not a doctor but that would be my expectation,” he said.
In Malta, the vulnerable are classified as over 65s, pregnant women and people with a list of particular health conditions.
“We do know of certain profiles, which will probably be flying before others: visiting friends and relatives, which will probably be up in the air first, young sunseekers and quick, short weekend breaks in that order.”
People going to the airport should also expect fewer people.
“One needs to keep in mind the operation we are going to come back to, when we’re back in operation.
“Passengers will not be at the same level that we are used to. There are infrastructural changes we can make to ensure social distancing will be kept and maintained. Not only at the gates but throughout the journey, through check-in, security, at the gates and finally before boarding the aircraft.”
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