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Cabin Crew at Etihad Airways Can’t Even Leave Their Own Homes to Go to the Supermarket

Cabin Crew at Etihad Airways Can’t Even Leave Their Own Homes to Go to the Supermarket

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is in the midst of a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, including a huge disinfection programme which is set to continue until at least April 4. Citizens have been urged to stay at home unless absolutely necessary and most shops, restaurants and other public places have been shuttered to reduce the risk of transmission.

Like many countries that have enforced similar lockdowns, however, citizens in the UAE are still allowed to go outside to pick up groceries from the supermarket, get medicine from a pharmacy or to visit a healthcare centre. There’s no knowing when the lockdown might be eased but life might return to some form of normality once the national disinfection programme ends on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Etihad
Photo Credit: Etihad Airways

But for cabin crew and pilots at Etihad Airways, they can’t even visit the supermarket and have instead been instructed to completely self-isolate at home whether they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or not.

“In order to have the maximum number of crew fit for flying duties we must take measures to prevent transmission from all potential sources,” an internal memo sent to both cabin crew and pilots reads.

“… in addition to staying at home and self-isolating as per the UAE Government mandate all Flight Deck (pilots) and Cabin Crew, both living in company provided accommodation and in outside accommodation must:

  • Not accept any visitors at all, including other crew members that live in your accommodation…
  • Under no circumstances must you go outside other than to visit EAMC (Etihad’s in-house medical centre) or another healthcare provider including the pharmacy. If you are leaving Etihad company accommodation you will be asked for proof…
  • Not visit any grocery store or supermarkets…
  • All Flight Deck and Cabin Crew are to continue self-monitoring for any potential symptoms, including doing a temperature check twice a day…

“Security personnel will be monitoring to ensure compliance, and these rules apply to all people living in company provided accommodation,” the memo continues. Staffers living in their own accommodations are also covered by the draconian rules, although Etihad appears to acknowledge that this will be harder to enforce.

Generally speaking, cabin crew must reside in company provided flats, whereas pilots can obtain a bursary to live out.

“We understand that these are extreme measures,” Etihad admits but says the measures are needed because “colleagues in the crew community have not abided by the laws set by the UAE government”. It’s unclear where Etihad obtained the legal power to enforce stricter rules than those available to police and why it was unable to simply report rule-breakers to the relevant authorities.

However, crew managers and other workers who are confined to accommodation have been involved in a huge effort to deliver food for breakfast, lunch and dinner to many crew stuck indoors.

Etihad said the rules would “guarantee the safety of our crew until the flight restrictions are lifted”. An initial two-week ban on scheduled commercial flights is set to end on Wednesday, April 8. “Anyone breaking these rules may face serious disciplinary actions that may lead to termination,” the memo warned.

For the time being, crew have been told to rely on food delivery and takeout services, so long as any food is left on their doorstep and there’s no contract with the delivery person.