Etihad Airways is lobbying the Abu Dhabi government to reduce the current isolation period for cabin crew who test positive for COVID-19 and close contacts of positive cases due to staff shortages caused by a recent spike in infections across the United Arab Emirates.
The airline placed cabin crew into a strict lockdown on Christmas Eve in an attempt to slow down the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant through the crew community. The initial 10-day lockdown has just been extended but some restrictions have been slightly eased.
In an internal memo, the airline said it had approached the UAE’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority asking for a reduction in the current isolation rules for cabin crew in order to provide the carrier with some “much need operational relief”.
In the United States, Delta Air Lines and jetBlue successfully lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce isolation guidelines to just five days in mild or asymptomatic cases. Critics have slammed the CDC over its revised guidelines, saying it puts more workers at risk of infection.
Airlines have been forced to cancel or delay thousands of flights over the traditionally busy Christmas and New Year period. Some problems have been caused by adverse weather but most of the airlines woes are due to staff shortages caused by a huge surge in Omicron infections.
Other countries, including the United Kingdom and France, have also reduced isolation guidelines but early release from quarantine requires a negative test. Germany is also considering reducing its isolation rules to head off a temporary staffing crisis.
Under Abu Dhabi’s current rules, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must attend a specialist medical centre for assessment. Patients with mild symptoms or who are asymptomatic are fitted with an electronic ankle tag and must isolate for 10-days.
Close contacts who are vaccinated must self-isolate for seven days, while unvaccinated close contacts must isolate for 10-days.
Etihad is seeking to ease those rules as it struggles to run its planned operation with so many crew isolating. The airline has enforced its own lockdown on cabin crew with staff barred from leaving their apartments for social reasons.
In Doha, Qatar Airways has reinforced a nightly curfew on cabin crew as a supposed COVID-19 mitigation measure, while Emirates has decided to discontinue pre-departure beverage service as part of its response to the Omicron surge.
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.