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Problems With Emirates’ Plan to Test All Cabin Crew and Pilots for COVID-19 Emerge

Problems With Emirates’ Plan to Test All Cabin Crew and Pilots for COVID-19 Emerge

In the early hours of Friday morning, the Dubai health authorities significantly ramped up their efforts to conduct full COVID-19 tests on cabin crew and pilots entering the country from abroad. For the past week, random crew had been subjected to the nasal swab test but this has now been extended to all crew, whether returning from an international layover or a turnaround flight.

It’s a significant step-up in the UAE’s efforts to both detect and contain the Coronavirus where the number of confirmed cases currently sits at less than 150 people. So far, over 127,000 tests have already been conducted, along with a number of other measures including the closure of schools and drastically limiting the number of foreigners who are permitted to enter the country.

But the implementation of mass testing for flight crew has raised some concern among staffers after it was revealed hundreds of crew were stuck in long lines, in close proximity with one another, while they waited to be tested. Sources claim the lines have been taking up to two hours to process.

Like many countries, the UAE has encouraged social distancing to limit the possible spread of the virus among people so the sight of hundreds of crew lined up close to one another for long periods is far from ideal.

There’s also concern about new quarantine procedures, ordering crew to self-isolate for 14-days whenever they arrive in the UAE. However, crew can be called out to perform a flight at any point during this 14-day period and when they return they must start the quarantine process all over.

As such, there are fears that cabin crew are effectively being placed under ‘house arrest’ for the foreseeable future, although it’s likely that as schedules continue to be eroded this will be less of an issue.

Regular passengers transiting through Dubai International Airport (DXB) are subjected to a thermal screening and further testing if their temperature is abnormally high. A number of those passengers have been placed in quarantine while they await the results of COVID-19 tests which can take up to 72-hours due to the number of tests being processed.

At Abu Dhabi airport, the UAE authorities have offered to open up the airport to U.S.-based airlines that don’t regularly fly to the country so as to assist in the repatriation of U.S. citizens.

Update: March 21 – Emirates and health authorities have moved to limit unnecessary social contact while cabin crew wait to be tested. As of Saturday morning, during periods when the arrivals hall is busy, crew ill be taken to nearby hotels to wait for a test. During this time, crew will continue to be paid. Well done Emirates!
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