Msunduzi News (English)

Oribi Airport is ready to resume operations

- By Siyethaba Mhlongo

DURING the announceme­nt on the easing of the national lockdown restrictio­ns to level 3 by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the beginning of July, he said that airports would also be opened for business travel.

Msunduzi’s very own Oribi Airport was amongst the seven that have been given a go-ahead to resume operations.

Airport manager Ms Nontobeko Mofokeng spoke to Msunduzi News about the measures they have put in place to ensure safety of staff and airport users as the country continues to battle with the scourge of Covid-19.

“Our airport is ready to resume operations. After we received the directive saying we could open we sanitised the entire facility for the fourth time since the implementa­tion of level 3 of the lockdown because aviation schools were given permission to start operating when level 3 started so they were using the airport all along even though we were not yet allowed to have passenger planes,” she said ahead of the opening on July 6.

Going forward she said the airport will be sanitised on a regular basis and that includes the swabbing of the frequently touched areas an hour before and after every flight.

Mofokeng added that the airport has screening stations where people also have their temperatur­e checked and hands sanitised before entering the premises and going through the boarding gate.

“Anyone found to have a temperatur­e higher than 37.5 degrees will be given a “cooling off period” of five to ten minutes. If their temperatur­e still doesn’t go down then they will not be allowed into the premises.”

With regards to the safety of the airport staff, Mofokeng said they have procured screens and face shields and masks.

“We’ve also ensured that we have hand sanitisers across the airport, especially in frequented areas, and these are for use by both the staff and the public.”

On the day Msunduzi News visited the airport Ms Mofokeng was on the ground working with her team to put the final precaution­ary measures in place, including marking the floors to ensure social distancing.

Mofokeng said for now the airport will only have morning and afternoon passenger flights.

“Planes from here fly to the OR Tambo Internatio­nal Airport in Johannesbu­rg. For now we think we are going to get more charter planes because only business travel is allowed and they fly to all parts of the country.”

Mofokeng appealed to passengers to check-in online and submit their travel permits upfront when they are booking tickets to avoid having queues at the airport. To minimise traffic, Mofokeng, said only passengers will be permitted inside the buildings so those who are doing pick-ups and drop-offs will not be allowed to enter the building.

“We are also appealing to people to ensure that they wear their masks because they will not be allowed into the airport without one and they will also not be allowed to fly without their masks,” she said.

Passengers will also have their temperatur­e checked before boarding the flight and if it does not go down after the “cooling off period” they will not be allowed onto the plane and the airport will assist them to get medical attention.

She said the extensive health protocols that passangers have to go through when they get to the airport are the reason why they are advised to come at least two hours early.

“Before walking through the scanners passengers must take off everything that has metal, like your jewellery and belts to avoid having security personnel patting people down. If you beep you will have to go through it again and if you continue beeping they then will use a hand-held scanner,” said Mofokeng.

She said travelling with pets is not allowed at the moment as the regulation only permits business travel.

“Our airport is mostly frequented by pupils from other parts of the country who are enrolled in schools here in Msunduzi so they must also have letters from their schools saying they are allowed to travel.”

She said they also have hand sanitisers next to the parking machine and the section where passengers pick up their luggage.

Airlink’s African regional manager Shameel Deeplaul said the flights for business and essential service travel between Pietermari­tzburg and Johannesbu­rg resumed on July 6 because the company wanted to ensure that all health protocols were in place before resuming operations.

 ?? Picture: Igunundu Agency / Siyethaba Mhlongo ?? Manager of Oribi Airport Ms Nontobeko Mofokeng
Picture: Igunundu Agency / Siyethaba Mhlongo Manager of Oribi Airport Ms Nontobeko Mofokeng

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