Airport buses are limited to 70% capacity as flights resume Monday – but planes can be full

Business Insider SA
An aircraft cabin
  • Airports will have to keep passengers apart, and boarding will be carefully managed to maintain physical distance when domestic air travel resumes on Monday.
  • Like other public transport, airport buses will also be limited to 70% of their normal capacity.
  • But that all stops at the door to the cabin. Airlines may fill up seats, except for the final row in every flight.
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When domestic air travel between four South African cities restarts on Monday, airports and airlines will have to adhere to strict rules to ensure physical distancing between travellers.

Check-in counters, security checkpoints, and airport lounges must all have markings on the floor to indicate the 1.5 metre distance people are expected to keep from one another, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said on Saturday.

Only travellers will be allowed to enter terminal airport buildings under rules for Alert Level 3; anyone picking up or dropping off a passenger must remain outside.

See also: The rules for domestic air travel are out – and only four airports will reopen on Monday

Boarding will be by section to stop crowding, and passengers will be called to gates in a staggered fashion.

Where airport buss are used, those will be limited to loading 70% of their maximum capacity, as is also the case for minibus taxis.

But those restrictions end at the entrance to the plane.

"Inside the cabin, full capacity will be allowed," said Mbalula.

See also: Video shows how one cough can spread invisible droplets through a plane cabin

"It must be noted that the risk of Covid-19 infection onboard a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces."

Commercial aircraft feature high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are very effective in blocking viruses from being recirculated within a cabin. 

Airlines believe the compulsory masks for passengers will take care of the common mechanism by which the coronavirus spreads: droplets liberated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Any particles that do escape from masks should be drawn to the floor, where air intakes are located, and should then be stopped by the HEPA filters before air flows back into the cabin. 

See also: New fees, no snacks, and no middle seats – what flying will look like in SA during Covid-19

Airplane cabins will not be 100% full, however. The last row of every flight must be reserved for "suspected cases" of Covid-19, in case a passenger with symptoms of the disease somehow gets through pre-boarding temperature checks.

Flights will feature no catering, and seat-pocket magazines are banned.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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