Virgin Atlantic has prohibited its cabin workers and pilots from socializing during work travels in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 among aircrew during international layovers.
Since late December, when the UK was infected with the highly infectious Omicron strain, the policy has been in effect.
Despite the British government’s decision not to impose any limitations on hospitality during the Omicron wave, the airline opted to enforce its own policy restricting social engagement among employees.
In England, practically all pandemic limitations were lifted last week in a contentious policy shift toward treating ‘living with the virus’ as an endemic illness rather than a pandemic that necessitates emergency measures like social distance and work-from-home mandates.
Virgin Atlantic, on the other hand, has yet to lift its own social segregation policies. It is thought to be the only airline in the UK that prohibits crew members from socializing during layovers.
Some employees have expressed concerns about their mental health after being separated from their friends and relatives in a foreign nation and then forbidden from engaging with others.
“Airline crew already spend considerable time away from their family and friends. These requested restrictions should be lifted as quickly as possible to enable them to support each other as normal while away from home,” commented, Martin Chalk, head of the BALPA pilots union.
“The challenges faced and overcome by pilots and our cabin crew colleagues during the pandemic, particularly the overblown and oppressive requirements in some places, are illustrated by the difficulties this airline is trying to address,” Chalk told The Telegraph.
Although many of these harsh requirements have been eased for vaccinated aircrew or through the use of quick testing, other countries require pilots and cabin crew to quarantine in their hotel rooms during layovers.
Virgin Atlantic will resume flights to Hong Kong through India, avoiding the possibility of crews being taken to one of the territory’s quarantine camps.
Virgin Atlantic said in a statement that it takes “pre-emptive measures to ensure operational and staffing resilience, always prioritizing the health and safety of our personnel and our customers.”
“Alongside any local requirements, temporary measures are in place for our crews to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission while they are overseas. This guidance to our people means we ensure they stay healthy and well and avoid flight disruption or cancellations for customers. These measures are kept under constant review and will be maintained only as long as necessary.”