As airlines around the world grapple with a worsening staff shortage due to the surge in COVID-19 infections that are making crews sick and sending them into isolation, Qatar Airways told flight attendants that they are no longer allowed to leave their hotel rooms during international stopovers due to Omicron fears.
In addition to a self-imposed hotel quarantine policy, Qatar Airways is also introducing a nighttime curfew for the crew at its home base in Doha. The crew will only be allowed to leave the lockdown for a “justifiable emergency” or with the prior authorization of a manager.
“In light of the ever-growing number of positive COVID cases around the world, we are obligated to implement additional precautionary measures to minimize the risk of the spread of highly transmissible strains of the virus,” said an internal memo titled “COVID-19 precautionary measures”. crew.
“While we understand that the temporary precautionary measures introduced can 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 the Qatar Ministry of Health and while it is not illegal to break the rules, the crew could face disciplinary action, including dismissal.
Throughout the pandemic, pilots and cabin crew have grown accustomed to spending time in hotel quarantine during layovers. These blockages are normally a local legal requirement, but in many jurisdictions the hotel quarantine has been relaxed or completely removed for fully vaccinated crew members.
Notable exceptions include China and Hong Kong, where crew can be placed in government quarantine facilities at any time.
Some airlines have demanded that crews stay locked in their hotel rooms, even in countries where there are no isolation rules for workers at foreign airlines. Qatar Airways has taken steps 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 all flights in response to concerns over the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The nighttime curfew will last from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and until further notice. Most cabin crew members live in company-owned shared accommodations and their movements can be tracked by on-site security. Last year, Qatar Airways instituted an even longer curfew and forced crew members residing in their own accommodation to return to airline apartments.
Some cabin crew have complained that they have been separated from their families, including young children, in order to comply with the rules.
An even tighter lockdown is in place at Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, where the crew were told on Christmas Eve that a full lockdown would go into effect for at least 10 days to tackle a wave of infections among staff cabin of the airline.
Cabin crew are almost completely prohibited from leaving their accommodation, except to go to work or seek emergency medical care.
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