Etihad Airways is putting all aircrew into full lockdown for at least 10-days beginning on Christmas Eve because the airline has “been hit hard” by the new Omicron wave. In the last week, COVID-19 cases have surged by more than 50 per cent across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), shooting past the 1,000 daily infections barrier for the first since August.
Cabin crew will be banned from leaving their homes from 8 pm on December 24 for at least 10-days. In an internal memo, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier said it hoped the 10-day hard lockdown would give the airline “adequate time to reset and stop the spread of further infections within the (crew) community”.
“As a community, we have been hit hard by this new wave, in fact, worse than ever before and not it’s literally stopping us in our tracks by possibly limiting our ability to continue operations as planned,” the memo, which we have reviewed, reads.
“Disruption is now a very real prospect therefore as an airline we have had to make a very tough and controversial decision and believe us, this was not taken lightly,” the memo continues.
“Many discussions happened over the previous few days since cases began to rise whereby this decision was deemed a last resort and worst-case scenario and we are afraid we have come to this point”.
Lockdown restrictions are so tough that crew will only be allowed to leave their homes to get groceries twice per week and only for an hour at a time. Visitors will be banned and gyms and pools shut. Corporate security will “monitor movements” of crew living in shared accommodation.
Although the lockdown is not legally enforceable, crew who don’t abide by the rules will be immediately dismissed.
Etihad placed crew into a similar lockdown in the early stages of the pandemic and a second internal lockdown was imposed at the start of 2021 because the airline was scared of “brand damage”.
Etihad became the first airline in the world to only staff flights with fully vaccinated crew but Abu Dhabi relied upon China’s Sinopharm vaccine for its initial vaccination campaign. A recent study found that a booster shot of the Sinopharm shot offered “significantly lower” neutralising activity against the Omicron variant.
Abu Dhabi has also been using Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines as part of its booster programme.
“We know that the timing of this lockdown is far from ideal, but as we have seen COVID-19 shows us no mercy,” the emo continued. “We have come so far in the past 24 months to let our guard down now. If we do then all the hardships and sacrifices would have been in vain and we have come too far to let the virus win.”
On Friday, Delta and United Airlines cancelled hundreds of flights between them due to staff shortages caused by a spike in sickness levels attributed by the Omicron variant.
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.