Routes speaks to Álvaro Leite, chief commercial officer at Aerodom, the VINCI Airports subsidiary that operates six airports in the Dominican Republic. He explains how Aerodom has reacted to the COVID-19 crisis, what the “new normal” looks like and how demand will come back.
How has the coronavirus affected your airport?
Dominican borders were closed on March 19. Since then only cargo and repatriation flights have been able to operate, which has had a tremendous impact on our traffic figures.
Despite that we have kept the airports in Aerodom’s network open and operational. They are essential, especially in situations like the current COVID-19 crisis. Our airports are available to transport medical staff and equipment, repatriate people stranded far from home or their families, provide solutions for people needing to travel because of the situation and transport vital consumer goods and equipment.
We have consolidated our teams and operations to withstand the unprecedent drop in activity we have witnessed
How are conversations with airlines progressing?
We have kept a close communication with airlines and all our partners. During these conversations they have transmitted their interest in restarting operations as soon as it is possible. We expect the country borders to re-open for airlines to restart operations at our airports with an initial lower offer that will grow adapting to demand in the course of the coming months.
When do you expect demand to recover?
Around the world, the whole recovery, will not be quick. It will take some time for airports and airlines to get back to 2019’s figures, but we remain confident that our customers and people in general will still want to travel, and that at Aerodom traffic will start picking up as soon as the lockdown measures are lifted.
We expect demand to recover quicker for our Santo Domingo airports, where the market is more resilient, with a perfect passenger mix (VFR, business and leisure) and we also anticipate a slightly slower recovery at Puerto Plata (POP) and Samana (AZS) airports given their direct link with the touristic activities.
The Dominican Republic has been the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean region and ranked top 5 overall in the Americas. Its tropical climate, white sand beaches, diverse mountainous landscape, and colonial history has attracted visitors from around the world, and we are confident that will continue to do so in the near future.
Without a doubt, passengers will be back and reassured by the new passenger journey.
What measures can you take to rebuild demand?
We are currently working closely with all the airlines that operate at Aerodom to prepare for the future and reopen our routes. We are also working with the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, as well as several Hotels and Tourism Associations in order to support national initiatives currently under discussion to strengthen the Dominican Republic touristic offer and make sure that is a safe destination.
Since two of our airports serve the capital city of the Dominican Republic, we believe that this market will be more resilient and has a strong medium-term outlook.
Mobility is important to build the world of tomorrow—economic mobility to kick-start the recovery, and tourism mobility to provide access to discovery and culture for a more open and responsible world.
What do you believe “the new normal” will look like as we have to manage the coronavirus?
Aerodom, as part of VINCI Airports, has implemented new sanitary measures throughout its entire network in order to safeguard passengers and employees.
These measures include: managing flows of people, observing social distancing, providing personal protection equipment (PPE) as well as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and informing passengers.
In addition to the new hygiene practices put in place by airlines, these measures guarantee appropriate safety conditions throughout the entire passenger journey. This will make it possible to gradually resume services in perfect safety.
Specifically, we are proposing:
- Maintain, as Dominican Authorities have established, the compulsory wearing of a mask by passengers, a key measure for both, airports and aircraft which will provide clear advantages regarding the simplicity in terms of controls, passenger empowerment, continuity throughout the journey, consistency with the proposal emerging for the rail mode and reduction in physical distance.
- Use of protective screens between passengers and employees as well as masks according to the exposure of each position.
- Organization of queues, spaces, and flow monitoring to reduce density.
- Increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection of all possible contact areas.
- Special attention to air renewal in terminals.
- A wide and continuous availability of hydro-alcoholic gel.
- Continuous communication on health advice and passenger processes.
Photo credit: VINCI Airports