Israel’s El Al Airlines has joined a growing list of global carriers to boast about the vaccination status of its employees with news that 100 per cent of customer-facing Israeli staff have now been inoculated against the COVID-19 virus. The airline has been helped by Israel’s rapid rollout of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine that has seen over 71 doses administered per 100 people as of February 11.
Unfortunately for El Al, having a fully vaccinated workforce will do little improve the airline’s fortunes for the time being at least. Shaken by spiralling case numbers in spite of the successful vaccine rollout and a national lockdown, as well as the threat of vaccine-resistant virus variant’s from abroad, Israel has all but shut its borders and grounded all regularly scheduled flights.
The initial two-week shutdown has seen Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport fall largely silent since January 25. Border restrictions have since been extended until February 20 at the earliest although health officials are arguing for an extension while further evidence is collected on the efficacy of vaccines on variants like the B.1.351 strain which was first discovered in South Africa.
There is now even talk that Israel might suspend plans to open up quarantine-free travel to passengers who can prove their vaccination status. Israel has already struck a reciprocal ‘vaccine passport‘ deal with Greece and the country was in talks with the Seychelles and Cyprus to reach similar agreements.
For now, El Al is only operating a handful of flights. Each flight has to be approved by the Ministry of Health and passengers are carefully vetted to make their reasons for travel are legitimate.
Hundreds of Israelis remain stranded around the world while they wait for their applications to be approved and special charter flights arranged. In the last week, El Al has been allowed to send ‘rescue’ flights to New York JFK and Dubai, although only Israeli passport holders were allowed to apply for permission to get on the flights.
On Wednesday, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways announced that it had become the first airline in the world to only use vaccinated pilots and cabin crew on all of its flights. Nearly 75 per cent of Etihad’s wider workforce has also received at least one dose of China’s Sinopharm vaccine the airline claimed.
A day later, Singapore Airlines said it was also operating flights with 100 per cent vaccinated cabin crew and pilots. Confusion remains, however, whether Singapore Airlines will now only use vaccinated crew on all of its flights or whether its claims were limited to a mere handful of services.
TOTH: One Mile at a Time
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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.