A number of foreign cabin crew working for Qatar Airways have been left stranded after Qatar’s health ministry banned foreign nationals from 14 countries. The drastic measure was announced on Sunday and came into effect less than 24-hours later. While Qatari citizens are not affected by the ban, all visitors and those with residence and work permits are not permitted to re-enter the small Persian Gulf State.
The Ministry of Public Health has said that at least eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 Coronavirus identified in the country are amongst expatriate workers. Three of the cases had been living in the same shared accommodation and three others had contact with them.
The new immigration restrictions have been described by the authorities as a “necessary preventive measure” to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus. Qatar has officially confirmed 18 cases.
Like many airlines in the region, Qatar Airways relies on foreign expatriate workers, many of whom come from the 14 restricted countries: Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria and Thailand.
Qatar Airways has been contacted for comment but had not yet answered questions over how many cabin crew and other workers have been affected or what the airline is doing to support those impacted
Workers who had taken leave will no longer be allowed to return to work or to their lives they have built in Qatar. It’s not known how long the restrictions will remain in force.
It’s unlikely, however, that the airline will face crew shortages over of the issue after being forced to drastically scale back its flight schedule.
Other airlines hit by crew restrictions
It’s not just Qatar Airways that’s facing a logistical nightmare over crew scheduling because of the current Coronavirus outbreak. More and more entry restrictions are being imposed by different countries, often at short notice, meaning that cabin crew who have worked flights to certain areas face restrictions.
Qatar Airways had previously said it had decided to suspend all flights to the Chinese mainland because of “significant operational challenges” caused by these entry restrictions.
Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, had complained last month that its “operational effectiveness” was being affected by various government’s imposing immigration restrictions on cabin crew who had visited China.
The dramatic escalation of a country-wide lockdown in Italy is causing similar problems for airlines in Europe and North America, while the developing situation in the United States is said to be a major cause of concern. So far, however, no country has dared to impose travel restrictions on flights from the United States.
Last week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that the financial impact of COVID-19 on the airline industry could be as high as $113 billion.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.