Face masks are about to become mandatory on all flights, with crew members wearing protective gear and passengers seated farther apart where possible.
The leading Gulf carrier is buffing up its infection prevention efforts on top of the enhanced hygiene protocols already in place. In a press release, the airline said its cabin crew must wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including a disposable, full-body suit over their uniforms, as well as safety goggles, gloves, and face masks—a practice that has been ongoing for the past few weeks. From Monday, May 25, passengers will be required to wear face coverings, and are recommended to bring their own.
Qatar Airways is also modifying its inflight service to reduce interactions between passengers and crew. Business-class meals will be served on a tray instead of the usual table set-up, and passengers will be offered a “cutlery wrap” as an alternative to individual cutlery service. In economy class, meals and cutlery are sealed as normal, while large bottles of hand sanitizer have been placed in the galleys for cabin crew and passengers to use. Social areas inside the aircraft cabin, such as the bar for business- and first-class passengers on board the airline’s A380s, will be closed for now. Other social distancing measures are being implemented wherever possible, with passengers allocated seats far apart from each other on flights with lighter loads.
While some airlines have temporarily removed their onboard linen and blankets, Qatar Airways is reassuring travelers that theirs have been washed, dried, and pressed at high temperatures proven to kill microbes. Headsets are removed of ear foams and rigorously sanitized after each flight, and all the aforementioned items are sealed into individual packaging by staff members wearing hygienic disposable gloves.
All cabin crew have been trained to minimize contracting or spreading the infection on the job, and are thermally screened before the departure of flights and after their arrival. Should any colleague or passenger show any Covid-19 symptoms or test positive for the virus, crew members on the same flight will be quarantined and tested. As an extra precaution, those working long-haul routes who must stay overnight in a foreign city can only travel in Qatar Airways–approved transport and must remain in their hotel rooms to reduce person-to-person interaction.
Qatar Airways Group’s chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said in the same statement, “We have introduced these additional safety measures on board our flights to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of our passengers and cabin crew, and to limit the spread of coronavirus. As an airline, we maintain the highest possible hygiene standards to ensure that we can fly people home safely during this time and provide even greater reassurance that safety is our number one priority.”