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Airlines Cancelling Flights to China Not Down to Safety Concerns But Because Crew Wouldn’t Be Able to Work Other Flights

Airlines Cancelling Flights to China Not Down to Safety Concerns But Because Crew Wouldn’t Be Able to Work Other Flights

Qatar Airways has a fleet of xx aircraft. The average age is just five years - one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world. Photo Credit: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has become the first airline in the Middle East to cancel its flights to mainland China – but the Doha-based airline made it clear that the decision wasn’t because it was putting the health and safety of its crew and passengers ahead of business.  Instead, it all comes down to new entry restrictions that more and more countries are imposing on anyone (including aircrew) who has been to mainland China.

Citing the “significant operational challenges” created by the new entry restrictions imposed by the likes of the United States, Singapore, as well as Australia, New Zealand and others, Qatar Airways said it would end services to China from Feb 3 until further notice.

“An ongoing review of operations will be conducted weekly with the intention to reinstate the flights as soon as the restrictions are lifted,” read a statement posted to the airline’s website.

Beijing Daxing International Airport

Qatar Airways has previously said it was monitoring the novel Coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan and that the “safety and security of our passengers and employees is of the highest importance.”

Qatar Airways did not react when fellow Oneworld member British Airways became the first European airline to completely pull the plug on its mainland China flights last week.  Since then, a slew of other airlines has followed suit, including the likes of Lufthansa, KLM, Air France and Iberia.

In North America, connections with mainland China have also been severed after American Airlines, Delta and United, along with Air Canada all nixed their services to Beijing and Shanghai.  The new travel restrictions were also cited by Delta for its decision to bring forward its flights suspension.

The travel restriction prevents any foreign nationals from entering the United States if they’ve been to mainland China within 14-days of their travel.  Similar restrictions have been introduced by other countries.  Such a wide-sweeping ban would create a logistical nightmare for crew planners who would have to ensure they didn’t use pilots or flight attendants who had been to China.

Photo Credit: Airbus

“If we continue operations, the significant numbers of crew who would have travelled to China would be limited to operate on certain flights, reducing our operational effectiveness,” complained Akbar Al Baker, the often outspoken chief executive of Qatar Airways.

“We will immediately resume our operations to China once the governmental restrictions are lifted,” he continued.

Both Qantas and Air New Zealand have decided to suspend flights to China for the same reason as Qatar Airways.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Oman Air also announced they would suspend their respective flights to mainland China.  That now leaves only Emirates and Etihad in the Persian Gulf with regualary scheduled flights to mainland China.