Emirates carried out an investigation and sacked at least one member of cabin crew who deceived the Dubai-based airline by using forged COVID-19 vaccination certificates, a leaked letter explaining the outcome of a disciplinary hearing reveals.
The letter, dated February 2022 but only now revealed, confirms that a member of cabin crew was dismissed for gross misconduct by using a fraudulent vaccination certificate which could, if made public, damage the reputation of the airline.
Although pandemic-era travel restrictions have been lifted in some countries, many destinations still only allow entry to fully vaccinated visitors. The same vaccination requirements also apply to aircrew including pilots and cabin crew who are often exempted from other rules like mandatory pre-departure testing.
Airlines can be fined and potentially even banned from flying to certain countries if they are found to have allowed passengers or crew with fake documentation, including vaccination certificates, to board flights.
Emirates admitted in an emailed statement that false documentation “cannot be tolerated as it puts safety and our operations at risk”.
The airline did not comment on specific incidents but a spokesperson told us: “Many countries require proof of vaccination, whether for COVID-19 or other diseases, as an entry requirement.”
“With a network that spans six continents, Emirates has robust internal systems to ensure that our crew have all the right documents for the route they are operating.”
The statement continued: “False documents cannot be tolerated as it puts safety and our operations at risk. Any such incident will be fully investigated and the appropriate action taken. Emirates takes its responsibilities as an employer and a provider of safe air transport services very seriously.”
The airline did not say how many cabin crew had been put under investigation or sacked for using a forged vaccination certificate. A spokesperson noted, however, that all crew were vaccinated against COVID-19 “except a very small number who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons.”
The Emirates Group rolled out its own vaccination programme in January 2021 using Pfizer’s Cominarty vaccine and the Chinese-developed Sinopharm vaccine. The airline did not initially make vaccination compulsory but unvaccinated cabin crew had their movements restricted and were barred from social events.
New joiners and rejoiners, as well as serving cabin crew, could also get vaccinated in another country where proof of vaccination might not be easily verified as authentic.
The partially redacted letter detailing the outcome of a disciplinary hearing does not reveal where the cabin crew member obtained the forged vaccination certificate. Following the outcome of the investigation, the crew member was sacked without notice.
Emirates has embarked on a massive recruitment campaign with plans to recruit as many as 6,000 new cabin crew over the next few months. The airline says it is scouring the earth for flight attendants and its team if recruiters have embarked on a worldwide whistlestop tour in their bid to find suitable candidates.
Shortlisted candidates are expected to complete a medical self-declaration form before they are formally offered a job and those who are eventually hired must make prove they have been vaccinated against a number of diseases including yellow fever.
Unlike Etihad Airways in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Emirates has not publicly confirmed that cabin crew must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
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.