One primary concern of traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the risk taken by flight attendants and pilots who have kept the airlines flying throughout the year. As the global vaccination campaign builds momentum throughout the world, one airline has just achieved the goal of vaccinating all its flight crew, ensuring passengers that any crew member they interact with while flying will have been inoculated.
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has announced that 100 percent of its pilots and cabin crew have now been vaccinated, as well as 75 percent of its entire workforce. The mission to vaccinate all of the airline’s employees began in January, building off the momentum of the UAE’s “Choose to Vaccinate Campaign.” The country has a goal of vaccinating half of its nine million people by the end of March. As of Feb. 9, 4.5 million doses have been administered in the country.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways was able to secure doses for its frontline staff through the UAE’s Emergency Use Program. "[Etihad] proactively made the vaccine available to all our employees to not only help combat the effects of COVID-19 but to make travelers feel confident and reassured the next time they fly with us," said Tony Douglas, Etihad's CEO.
Vaccinations were entirely optional, and each crew member was given a choice. "It seemed like a natural decision to receive the vaccine. Along with mask-wearing and social distancing, this vaccine is our chance to defeat COVID-19," explained Eliza-Violeta Hristu, an Etihad crew member. "I chose to protect myself and, in turn, my guests by getting vaccinated." Additional crew members said they also had passengers' safety in mind and that being vaccinated allows them to reassure guests who may be uneasy about flying during the pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic, Etihad set a high standard for sanitation safety, having been awarded Diamond Status by APEX Health Safety, among many other airlines that have also begun vaccination campaigns. Singapore Airlines began vaccinating its crew and airport workers in January, setting up their own vaccination center in Changi Airport. Emirates, the other UAE airline based out of Dubai, has also offered vaccinations to all of its staff.
Not every airline has moved as quickly to vaccinate their crew members, particularly in the U.S., where pilots and flight attendants are only recognized as essential workers in some state. American Airlines has told their pilots that they should take the vaccine independently while the airline works to put together a more expansive inoculation program. Until then, the company has told their crew in a memo that if they choose to receive the vaccine before, they should schedule it for one of their days off. Delta Air Lines has begun offering employees vaccinations, but only if they are 65 and older.
Etihad Airways is based out of Abu Dhabi and is currently operating flights between Europe, the United States, Asia, and Australia, including routes to remote island resort destinations like the Maldives and the Seychelles.
Khaleej Times. "UAE Covid Vaccine: Over 4.5 Million Doses Administered." Feb. 9, 2021
National Conference of State Legislatures. "COVID-19: Essential Workers in the States." Retrieved February 11, 2021.