Social distancing requirements may create long queues for returning Nepalese at Tribhuvan Int’l Airport

Photo: Bijay Amatya
Photo: Bijay Amatya

Social distancing requirements may create long queues for returning Nepalese at TIA

Kathmandu – ANN

When the repatriation flights begin in earnest, the government plans on allowing up to 10 planes per day with returnees. One of the important preparations that has been done in expectation is the outline of social distancing squares at various queuing stations.

Photo: AviationNepal
Photo: Bijay Amatya

The anticipated arrival process, although the details are not clear yet, will entail three stations: Hand sanitizer at the Apron, temperature check at the end of the arrival corridor right before immigration, and finally passport control. Based on the pictures above it is estimated that there are 100 “squares” in the corridor and 12 “squares” in front of every immigration desk.

Using this information, the Aviation News team created a configurable Queuing Simulator to evaluate the potential queuing bottlenecks. Parameters include the number of passengers arriving at one time, the number of immigration desks open, and the amount of time to process each Nepali citizen at these desks (assuming only a passport check, scan, and stamp).

During the normal operation of the airport, up to 4 desks are open for Nepali Citizens and it takes about 2 minutes per person for passport check, scan, and stamp. Using these numbers, here is the simulation for a narrow body aircraft with 160 passengers.

As you can see, it will take a full 83 minutes to get everyone to baggage claim. The last people off the plane will still be in the health queue after 55 minutes because there will be no room in front of the desks. Here is the same simulation for wide body aircraft with 250 passengers.

In this scenario it will take more than 2 hours (128 minutes) to get everyone downstairs. And the last people off the plane will be outside in the monsoon weather for 50 minutes and the health queue for an additional 50 minutes! If two aircraft arrive at the same time, one narrow body and one wide body, 410 passengers are trying to go through the lines. Let’s assume that in this scenario they increase the number of immigration desks from 4 to 10 in expectation.

Even with that expansion, it will still take 85 minutes to process everyone, and the last ones will be stuck outside for at least 35 minutes.

So, if social distancing must be respected, the airport should implement these three recommendations:

  1. Install tents outside to protect the arriving passengers from the elements. Place lines barriers in zig zag to guide the people through a smooth and social distancing progression.
  2. Open as many immigration desks as possible. That will make the biggest difference in time processing.
  3. Stagger the aircraft lading to a minimum of 90 minutes interval as to not overwhelm the arrival queues.

Without this, people will push in on top of each other and face masks will not be enough to prevent major COVID-19 contagion.

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