Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
Nearly 12-months to the day that “a large number” of Qatar Airways cabin crew found themselves unexpectedly stranded abroad, Qatar Airways has sent emails to affected crew saying that the Doha-based airline is finally in a position to help them return to their lives and jobs in Qatar that were suddenly put on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
Like a number of countries around the world, the small Persian Gulf state of Qatar imposed tough border restrictions as the world woke up to the emerging health crisis that unfolded early last year.
Early last March, Qatar slammed its borders shut to visitors and even returning residents from an initial list of 14 countries including India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand – countries where many expat Qatar Airways staff originally come from and where some were visiting friends and family at the time.
With the Qatari authorities giving less than 24-hours notice that the border restrictions were being introduced, many cabin crew and other expat residents who were abroad at the time have been stranded outside of Qatar ever since. The travel restrictions were later extended to a large swathe of other countries around the world.
Now, Qatar Airways has told these stranded workers that the airline is in a position to “initiate the process” of arranging for their return by applying for exceptional entry permits – a process that allows foreign residents to return despite Coronavirus border restrictions but which can only be organised by a Qatari employer.
“As a member of our cabin crew team who has been located outside Qatar for an extended period of time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope this email finds you safe and well in your current location,” the surprise email begins.
“We understand that this may have been a challenging time for you and that you are keen to return to active duty with the airline in Qatar at the earliest opportunity,” it continues. “We are pleased to advise that we are now at a stage where we are able to initiate the process of arranging for the return of stranded cabin crew members.”
The memo does not say how many crew are waiting to return to Qatar but simply says that a “large number” were stranded. Those who take up the offer to return will be required to quarantine in company-provided isolation facilities and will need to complete a specially created training programme.
Qatar Airways continued flying throughout the pandemic but like many airlines, the carrier was forced to cut thousands of jobs including hundreds of cabin crew. It’s not clear whether the need to bring back stranded cabin crew is linked to an anticipated uptick in travel demand or because of higher than expected natural attrition.
The airline did, however, recently get in touch with some pilots who were made redundant at the height of the pandemic asking them to apply for their jobs back. Pilots who were previously trained to fly Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft have been contacted by the airline with the prospect that some could be back in Doha within weeks.
By the end of March, Qatar Airways says it will be flying to more than 130 destinations worldwide and operating more than 800 flights per week.
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Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.