By: Thanabalan Marimuthu, Duty Manager AeroDarat Services PEN
The aviation industry is one of the industries that is hardest hit by Covid-19 pandemic due to the closure of borders in almost all countries all over the world. When Movement Control Order was announced by the government in March 2020, the abrupt impact had left many aviation industry work force struggling to make ends meet including those in Penang International Airport where many were forced to take unpaid leave or even faced retrenchment.
AeroDarat Services at Penang International Airport (ADS PEN), on the other hand, had its hands full in handling charter and rescue flights for cargo and passengers out of Penang, Malaysia. Only government authorized flights and those evacuating passengers from Malaysia were permitted to operate and ADS PEN was entrusted by the foreign carriers (FOCA) to handle those charter flights.
In adherence to COVID-19 SOPs, various measures were put in place as the safety of passengers and staff was the utmost priority. Firstly, ample space at check-in area was provided to avoid crowding and to adhere to social distancing requirement. The check-in counters were opened earlier than usual i.e. 4 hours prior to departure instead of 2 hours to allocate more time for passengers to check in. Further safety measure was taken by assigning staff to check passengers’ body temperature at the entrance and to guide them at the check in counters.
To ensure the smooth process during check-in, the staff also need to first ensure all passengers have their face masks on, hand sanitizers and all their travel documents and health declaration forms ready as per the mandatory requirement.
We share some of the memorable flights handled by AeroDarat Penang during the pandemic strike in 2020.
Myanmar Airways International flight departed from Penang to Yangon on 19th June 2020 with a total of 136 passengers. All passengers were Myanmar nationals who went back to their hometown on this charter flight.
The airline’s Head of Ground Operations Manager Ms Kyi Kyi in complimenting the AeroDarat expressed her gratitude for seamless and smooth operations. “We can say that this is the best ground handler for our charter flight operations during COVID-19 pandemic period. Really appreciate your teamwork. Hope to see you again”, she added. On 15th August 2020, the team again handled another flight with bigger capacity of 170 passengers.
The team also was entrusted to handle Lucky Air charter flight and Vietnam Air charter flights. Carrying cargo onboard, Lucky Air operated as daily flights from Chengdu, China to Penang, Malaysia from May to June 2020 while Vietnam Air operated from Saigon, Vietnam to Penang, Malaysia from June until October 2020.
Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic during its early days, ADS PEN team managed to weather the storm and continued to provide the services to support those in need.