COVID-19 or not, Formula 1’s season finale is going ahead in Abu Dhabi, and Etihad has helped get the crews and their cars there. On Monday, Etihad Airways operated ten flights to transport Formula 1 crew and drivers from Manama, Bahrain, to Abu Dhabi, using a mixed fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, Airbus A320s and A321s. In addition, Etihad also operated five cargo flights, flying the cars and other gear to Abu Dhabi.
“Working with our partners at Yas Marina Circuit, bringing the Formula 1 to Abu Dhabi is always an incredibly exciting experience. This year, it is an opportunity for Etihad to showcase its ‘Wellness’ credentials, which are leading the way in the aviation industry’s response to COVID-19,” said Terry Daly, an executive at Etihad Airways.
Etihad maintains the Formula 1 “biosphere”
Flying sporting groups, support staff and their kit is usually run-of-the-mill stuff for airlines, including Etihad. But the Formula 1 crew and drivers are working within a “biosphere” right now, and Etihad had to go the extra mile to ensure their safety and wellness.
Special exemptions have been made to allow the Formula 1 event to go ahead in Abu Dhabi this Sunday. Etihad Airways transported 1,248 people on the charter flights from Manama. While there are tight movement and testing regimes for drivers and crews upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, just getting them there was a logistical challenge.
“Etihad’s role in this operation was meticulously planned,” said Mr Daly.
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The current Formula 1 champions, the Mercedes team, got the pick of the planes, the 787 Dreamliner featuring the current Formula 1 livery. That plane has been out and about since 2018, attempting to boost the profile of Formula 1 racing in Abu Dhabi.
Rigorous procedures on the ground as well as in-flight
The various Formula 1 crews and drivers are operating within distinct social bubbles, so Etihad had to accommodate that. The airline also had to space everyone out on the flights. A section of Bahrain’s Airport was closed on Monday to handle the outbound flights and their passengers.
In Abu Dhabi, Terminal Three was closed all day to process the arriving flights. Everyone on the flights had to have a negative COVID-19 certificate to leave Bahrain. They then got tested again upon arrival in Abu Dhabi. All the passengers then has to isolate in one of six designated hotels to await the test results.
Etihad says that while onboard, the drivers were treated to personalized good luck video messages from Formula 1 fans, including many of the airline’s staff and crew. A Formula 1 themed menu was served, and drivers were given personalized snoods. What’s a snood? A local name for a face covering. What a Formula 1 themed meal is, the airline hasn’t said.
Etihad says it is one of the only airlines in the world requiring 100% of its passengers to show a negative COVID-19 test before travelling. That perhaps goes some way to explaining why they can offer all passengers traveling with Etihad complimentary COVID-19 insurance.
“Guests onboard were looked after by our Wellness Ambassadors who are available on every Etihad flight to ensure the highest safety and wellbeing standards,” said Mr Daly.
Practice sessions in Abu Dhabi are due to begin on Friday.