Emirates Airline has once again closed the iconic onboard lounge and bar on its flagship Airbus A380 superjumbos because of a surge in COVID-19 cases around the world. On Monday, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reported 2,515 new infections after witnessing a rapid spike in new cases since mid-December.
Several passengers have reported being taken by surprise by the airline’s decision to close the famed bar with no notice. Along with keeping the lounge off-limits, Emirates has also suspended pre-departure beverage service in Business Class to reduce interaction between cabin crew and passengers.
At the start of the pandemic, Emirates removed its A380 superjumbos from service but when they eventually returned, the Dubai-based airline initially decided to keep the onboard lounge and bar shut as part of its COVID-19 mitigation measures.
The lounge reopened in October 2020 but at first, it only offered a takeaway service and passengers weren’t allowed to mingle or socialise in the space.
Passengers have been allowed to use the lounge as normal for a number of months now and the latest closure is believed to be a temporary measure until Omicron cases have peaked around the world.
Unlike a number of other countries including the United States, the UAE has kept in place a ban on travellers from South Africa and several other African countries over Omicron fears. In recent days, the list of banned countries has been expanded despite the fact that the Omicron wave appears to have long since peaked in South Africa.
Air New Zealand started 2022 by suspending all inflight service on its domestic short-haul routes so that passengers have no excuse to remove their face masks. The airline cited the Omicron threat for the decision.
The vast majority of airlines around the world have retained onboard service levels despite a dramatic surge in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks. Some airlines, notably in the US, have struggled to crew flights because so many staff are off sick or isolating with COVID-19. Officials have responded by reducing the recommended isolation period.
In the UAE, staff at Etihad Airways have been put into strict lockdown while Qatar Airways has banned cabin crew from leaving their hotel rooms on international layovers in an attempt to prevent Omicron infection.
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.