As Emirates restarts very limited services after a near two-week suspension, the airline has advised customers to bring along their own face masks and gloves to wear during flights between Dubai and London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris and Zurich. The Dubai-based airline has been given permission to offer the flights with outbound-only passengers able to buy tickets through Emirates’ official website.
The advice for passengers to wear face masks follows a u-turn in official guidance on when and where the personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used. Until early April, the UAE’s Ministry of Health said only those with visible signs of infection should wear masks but has now decided that they could be useful in protecting anyone who is asymptomatic as well.
“Studies showed that wearing face masks in public places is typically limited to those suffering from respiratory ailments like coughing,” Dr Farida Al Hosani, the Ministry of Health’s official spokesperson said on Friday. But she countered that “new studies and research, as well as international recommendations, suggest that the virus could infect people who do not show symptoms.”
The change in policy also coincided with a recommendation from the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the American people to wear face masks – which could include simple cloth masks in public areas, including public places where maintaining social distancing is difficult – like a grocery store, pharmacy or a passenger plane.
Emirates has warned passengers to arrive at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 2 at least three hours before their flight because of stringent health screening requirements including thermal screening and medical questionnaires. Passengers will also be banned from taking most hand luggage onboard, except for laptops, handbags and briefcases, as well as baby items – this is to prevent the need for crew to handle these items.
Special precautions for cabin crew
The cabin crew operating these flights will have to undergo a full COVID-19 test on their return to Dubai and will be quarantined until their tests are returned and come back as negative. Unlike before the flight suspension, cabin crew will not be exempt from the quarantine if they are rostered another flight.
The airline has also told their flight attendants that the number of operating crew on its aircraft could be slashed to comply with social distancing protocols – with as few as 14 passengers, Emirates says it could operate a Boeing 777-300 with just four crew. Less than one crew per pair of emergency doors.
Between 14 to 102 passengers, that number would increase to six crew members. Up to 234 passengers would require eight crew and up to 352 passengers would see 10 crew members working the flight.
Whereas Emirates would normally layover their crew in European destinations for at least 24-hours, these special repatriation services will be operated as turnarounds. Emirates may deadhead a second set of crew in order to comply with flight time limitations.
On Sunday, Emirates operated a specially chartered flight between Dubai and London with 345 British citizens onboard. The visitors had been stranded in Dubai since international air travel was suspended on March 24. Only Emirati citizens will be able to return to Dubai on flights leaving European outstations.
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.