As airlines around the world grapple with worsening staff shortages due to a surge in COVID-19 infections that are making crew sick and isolating them, Qatar Airways has told flight attendants that are no longer allowed to leave their hotel room during international layovers due to Omicron’s fear.
In addition to a self-imposed hotel quarantine policy, Qatar Airways is also introducing a nighttime curfew for crew at its home port in Doha. The crew will only be allowed to leave the lock for a “justifiable emergency” or with the prior authorization of a manager.
“Given the continued increase in the number of COVID-positive cases globally, we are compelled to implement additional precautionary measures to minimize the risk of spreading highly transmissible strains of the virus,” an internal memo said. titled “COVID-19 Precautionary Measures”. team.
“While we understand that the temporary precautionary measures introduced may make life more difficult, we assure you that these measures are put in place for the sole purpose of protecting you and those around you from contracting the virus.”
The measures were not introduced by Qatar’s health ministry and although it is not illegal to break the rules, the crew could face disciplinary action, including dismissal.
Throughout the pandemic, pilots and cabin crew have become accustomed to spending time in hotel quarantine during layovers. These lockdowns are normally a local legal requirement, but in many jurisdictions hotel quarantine has been relaxed or removed altogether for fully vaccinated crew members.
Notable exceptions include China and Hong Kong, where crew may be placed in government quarantine facilities at any time.
Some airlines have required crew to stay locked in their hotel rooms even in countries where isolation rules for foreign airline workers do not exist. Qatar Airways has decided to reassure the crew that it has only imposed an internal lockdown rule in response “to the current very alarming situation and we will certainly remove these measures as soon as it becomes safe to do so. “.
Earlier this month, Qatar Airways ordered cabin crew to wear gowns, gloves and goggles on board all flights in response to concerns over the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The night curfew will last from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and until further notice. Most cabin crew members live in company-owned shared accommodation and their movements can be tracked by on-site security. Last year, Qatar Airways introduced an even longer curfew and forced crews who were residing in their own accommodation to return to the airline’s apartments.
Some cabin crew members have complained of being separated from their families, including young children, in order to comply with the rules.
An even stricter lockdown is in effect at Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, where crew were told on Christmas Eve that a full lockdown would come into effect for at least 10 days to tackle a wave of infections among staff airline cabin.
Cabin crew are almost completely prohibited from leaving their accommodation except to go to work or seek urgent medical attention.
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