2021 is a tumultuous year for the aviation industry worldwide. While the road back to normality is expected to be long and difficult, airlines are testing and trialing ways and means to speed up the recovery of international travel. In this respect, Qatar Airways is a pioneer as it operated, in early April, the world’s first fully Covid-19 vaccinated flight.
Flight QR6421 carried only vaccinated crew and passengers on board, with passengers served by fully vaccinated staff at check-in. Stringent measures were put in place to ensure the highest standards of safety and hygiene on board, including the ‘Zero-Touch’ technology that enables passengers to access the onboard entertainment system via their personal electronic devices; and the new Business Class Qsuite with enhanced privacy.
Thomas Scruby, Qatar Airways Vice President of Sales for Australasia & North Asia, pinpoints quality product, reliability and safety as the three core foci at the moment. “Qatar Airways aims to be the reliable global connector that continues to repatriate millions of stranded passengers amid the pandemic,” he says. “The fully Covid-19 vaccinated flight is in line with our mission.”
Scruby notes that protecting passengers and cabin crew is the number one priority. To make the onboard experience as safe as possible, the Doha-based carrier supplies cabin crew with fully geared protective equipment, whereas for passengers, complimentary protective kits and disposable face shields are provided. At the airport, Qatar Airways is adopting ultraviolet (UV) technology to thoroughly disinfect its aircraft cabins and all passenger touchpoints.
To re-open borders without quarantine and restart international aviation, governments need to be confident they are effectively mitigating the risk of importing COVID-19, which points to the needs of having accurate information on passengers’ COVID-19 health status. To address the challenge, Qatar Airways is the first airline in the Middle East to begin trials of the innovative Travel Pass in partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Qatar Airways’ innovative mobile app informs passengers on the tests, vaccines and other measures they require to take prior to travelling to the destination countries. Travelers are able to share their tests and vaccination results in a verifiable, safe and privacy-protecting platform.
“The digital passport will bring some common ground to and help passengers navigate the complex and ever-changing requirements for entry and exit restrictions required by different countries,” says Scruby.
Besides air travel, Scruby also notes the vital role of Qatar Airways Cargo in maintaining a reliable schedule across an expanding network of destinations. Indeed, since the onset of the pandemic, the airline has helped transport more than 500,000 tonnes of medical supplies, and delivered close to 20,000,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 20 countries.
Going forward, Scruby is optimistic aviation will see a rebound. “There will likely be an initial spike, given families and relatives are longing to reunite with one another. With a network of over 130 destinations, we’re in a good position to help people do that.” An initiative is the Student Club programme, offering students studying abroad affordable, flexible international airfare options that unlock great benefits and privileges.
Scruby adds that the goal post-pandemic is to grow the networks as entries around the world ease. The airline, for instance, is boosting its footprint in the booming Greater Bay Area with the recently launched sea-to-air ferry transfer service from Shenzhen Shekou to Hong Kong International Airport, providing customers with greater connectivity and flexibility.