Etihad Airways said on Wednesday that all of its frontline, operational cabin crew and pilots have already received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and that at least 75 per cent of the airline’s wider workforce have been offered the jab.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline has been in a defacto race with Emirates in neighbouring Dubai and Singapore Airlines to become the first fully COVID-19 vaccinated airline. Etihad got off to a head start by vaccinating some workers as early as last September with China’s Sinopharm vaccine while it was still undergoing Phase III human trials.
The Sinopharm vaccine was developed in partnership with the Abu Dhabi artificial intelligence company Group 42. It uses an inactivated virus to generate an immune response to the novel Coronavirus and has become a bedrock of Abu Dhabi’s mass vaccination programme.
“We proactively made the vaccine available to all our employees to not only help combat the effects of Covid-19 but to make travellers feel confident and reassured the next time they fly with us,” explained Etihad’s chief executive, Tony Douglas on Wednesday.
Douglas received the first shot of the Sinopharm vaccine in early January as part of the UAE’s efforts to make vaccines available to all adults aged 18-years and older.
“We are the only airline in the world to make Covid-19 testing mandatory for every passenger and crew member before every flight and now, we’re the first airline in the world with 100 per cent vaccinated crew on board,” Douglas continued.
Etihad has been vaccinating employees at its in-house medical centre which was approved as an official vaccination centre, as well as at mobile clinics. Etihad has not made the vaccine mandatory but has told staff that should they refuse the jab, they will not receive sick pay if they go on to become infected with COVID-19.
Operational cabin crew have also been told that a controversial home quarantine policy will only be eased if workers agree to receive the jab. Etihad employed nearly 5,000 cabin crew and around 2,000 pilots as of February 2020 – the latest figures supplied by the airline. Since the pandemic, thousands of staff have, however, been made redundant.
Singapore Airlines chief executive Goh Choon Phong told staffers that he had hoped his airline would win the race after the city-state authorised the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine last month. Over 5,000 operational workers have already signed up to receive the jab and a vaccination centre has been set up inside Singapore’s Changi airport.
Emirates started its own vaccination drive on January 18, using both the Pfizer and Sinopharm vaccines. The Oxford / Astrazeneca jab is also now being used due to supply issues with the Pfizer shot.
Some airline workers in the United States are also now being offered the vaccine but eligibility depends on what state workers live in. United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby has argued that vaccination should be compulsory, although rivals including Delta say they will only “strongly encourage” workers to be vaccinated.
Main photo: Sorbis / Shutterstock.com
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.