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Emirates Operates a Fully Vaccinated Flight – But it Failed to Sell Out

Emirates Operates a Fully Vaccinated Flight – But it Failed to Sell Out

Emirates made history on Saturday when it operated the first fully vaccinated flight in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with “close to” 400 passengers onboard the Airbus A380 operated ‘flight to nowhere’. After a aerial tour of the country, Emirates flight EK2021 landed right back where it started at Dubai International Airport (DXB).

The special one-off flight had been arranged to bring attention to the UAE’s successful COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The inoculation campaign has so far delivered more than 90 doses per 100 people – although the vaccines currently approved for use in the UAE require two doses.

Photo Credit: Emirates

In less than three months, Emirates says it has managed to vaccinate over 35,000 of its own employees at special vaccination centres it set up across the emirate. Around 85 per cent of the airline’s pilots and cabin crew have also now received one of three approved vaccines – Pfizer / BioNTech, China’s Sinovac or the controversial AstraZeneca shot.

But while Emirates was the first airline in the world to publicly advertise its intention to operate a fully vaccinated flight, it was beaten to the punch by just days by regional rival Qatar Airways. The Doha-based carrier operated the world’s first fully vaccinated flight on Tuesday after keeping the event tightly under wraps until the last minute.

While Qatar Airways only had invited guests and dignitaries onboard, Emirates went ahead and sold tickets for its flight to anyone who could prove they had received both doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Unfortunately, Emirates struggled to sell out its flight and in the end, the service took off with at least 70 spare seats – although, Emirates hasn’t actually disclosed exactly how many passengers were onboard.

Photo Credit: Emirates

“Emirates continues to support the national vaccination programme and we are pleased with the progress made within the group in vaccinating our employees,” commented Emirates’ chairman and chief executive, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

While yesterday’s flight was a showcase for the benefits of vaccination, the airline doesn’t currently have any plans to make proof of vaccination a requirement to board one of its flights. But Sheikh Al Maktoum does hope that vaccines, along with other health protocols will help reopen international air travel.

Those measures include the wearing of face masks for the foreseeable future, as well as fast COVID-19 testing. Even the vaccinated passengers on Saturday’s special flight were tested before boarding.

One testing provider has administered four million PCR tests at Dubai International Airport to date and the industry hopes a combination of vaccines and testing will convince governments around the world to ease travel restrictions.

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