Qatar Airways has reintroduced upgraded personal protective equipment (PPE) for its cabin crew, which includes a disposable gown, goggles, gloves, and the required face mask.
The additional rules were imposed on Sunday in response to concerns that passengers and crew are up to three times more likely to contract Omicron during a flight than with prior COVID-19 virus strains.
Cabin crew for the Doha-based airline are required to wear the additional PPE on all flights and must go through airport terminals wearing disposable gloves. Qatar Airways has confirmed the new regulations but has not stated how long they will be in effect.
Qatar Airways took the dramatic step to dress cabin personnel in head-to-toe paper hazmat suits quite early in the epidemic, in May 2020.
The suits, which chief executive Akbar Al Baker conceded were uncomfortable and difficult to work in, were adopted at the same time that passengers on Qatar Airways flights were required to wear face masks.
The biohazard suits were worn by cabin staff for nearly two months before Qatar Airways switched to paper wrap-around gowns identical to those worn by Emirates and Etihad Airways.
At the time, Qatar Airways began requiring Economy class passengers to wear face shields in addition to a face mask for the duration of the flight, though that policy has since been discontinued.
In fact, Qatar Airways announced only last week that it was reintroducing a full meal service in First and Business Class, reversing earlier pandemic-era safety measures.
The new service will debut on flights between Doha and London and Paris, where the number of Omicron cases is on the rise.
The meal option will be gradually pushed out across the airline’s network beginning in January. Individual layups rather than tray sets are among the modifications, as is the removal of plastic caps.
Increased interaction and proximity between cabin workers and guests will be required as part of the process.
But, according to Dr. David Powell, medical consultant to the International Air Transport Association, there is very little evidence of crew-to-passenger transfer.
However, in a recent Bloomberg interview, Dr. Powell stated that airlines should definitely forego outfitting cabin personnel with full safety gear and face shields.