Etihad Airways will ease a controversial quarantine policy for cabin crew but only for staffers who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Health officials in Abu Dhabi have authorised the use of both the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and the Sinopharm vaccine but supply delays with Pfizer’s jab mean crew are only being offered the Chinese manufactured Sinopharm candidate.
Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to be vaccinated but priority is being given to healthcare workers, the elderly and frontline workers like cabin crew and airport staff. Etihad is offering the jab free of charge at its in-house healthcare centre and is strongly encouraging staff to receive the vaccine as quickly as possible.
Although vaccination is not mandatory, Etihad recently announced plans to strip sick leave entitlement from unvaccinated staff who go on to become infected with COVID-19. The same rules will also apply to employees who are asked to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone infected with the novel Coronavirus.
Cabin crew have now also been told they can enjoy in-house swimming pools and gym facilities so long as they have been vaccinated. Since mid-January, operating crew have been ordered to remain locked in their apartments in Abu Dhabi apart from one authorised outing per day in order to pick up essential supplies or to seek medical attention.
Etihad said the strict isolation measures had been introduced because of rising levels of infection amongst cabin crew. The airline told staff that it had been forced to cancel several flights because of crew testing positive for COVID-19 and managers feared the cases would lead to reputational damage.
Cabin crew have been warned that access will only be granted to fitness facilities once vaccination records have been cross-referenced. “We strongly urge non-vaccinated crew to consider getting the vaccine and taking those steps to further help the community by protecting themselves, and protecting each other,” the memo explained.
Emirates Airline in neighbouring Dubai started its own mass vaccination programme in January and has since started to roster cabin crew to receive a jab as part of their work duties. Vaccination is not mandatory but some staffers have complained that they feel under pressure to receive the jab as quickly as possible.
Dubai has also authorised the Pfizer / BioNTech and Sinopharm vaccines, as well as recently approving use of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine. The emirate received its first shipment of AstraZeneca jabs on Tuesday to address a supply squeeze that has slowed the country’s impressive vaccination rollout.
Both Etihad Airways and Emirates are in an unofficial race with Singapore Airlines to become the first fully vaccinated airline. Singapore Airlines has made the Pfizer jab available to all frontline workers and more than 5,000 workers with operational rosters have already signed up to get vaccinated.
Singapore has set up a mass vaccination centre in Terminal 4 at Changi Airport which is capable of vaccinating up to 2,000 people a day. The airport operator hopes to increase capacity in the coming months.
Yesterday, Sara Nelson, president of the U.S. Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) told a congressional hearing that federal authorities should copy Singapore by setting up vaccination centres in airports across the United States.
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.