Qatar Airways CEO Speaks Out Against Social Distancing Onboard Aircraft

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Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker believes that social distancing is not necessary on an aircraft. As his airline gears up for expansion this summer, he has advocated the use of other precautions during the pandemic.

Qatar Airways A350
Qatar Airways’ chief says that social distancing on flights can be detrimental to operations. Photo: Qatar Airways

Could be a costly

According to Sky News, the charismatic businessman said this week that if social distancing is implemented, the prices for air travel go will go up remarkably. This is because there will be 30-40% load factors on planes.

Moreover, there is still a chance of coming into close contact with someone when trying to go to a seat. Therefore, he feels that social distancing should not be implemented on a plane as long as all the proper precautions are in place.

Qatar Airways
Qatar could come back from the crisis a smaller airline. Photo: Getty Images

Al Baker said the below, as reported by Sky News.

“So I think that social distancing really should not be implemented in an aeroplane as long as you’re going to take all the precautions you need – masks, gloves – and in Qatar Airways we are also supplying face shields and fully clad PPE for cabin crew. We are taking all the mitigating factors to make sure that the air is still the safest way to travel.”

There are several new measures in place across Qatar Airways’ services. There are initiatives such as onboard hand sanitizer, protective equipment for staff, and mandatory masks for passengers.

Additionally, all of the carrier’s aircraft feature industrial-size HEPA filters that remove 99.97% of viral and bacterial contaminants from re-circulated air. Therefore, Al Baker is confident that these measures will help to maintain the safest possible environment on a jet.

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Qatar Airways PPE
Even though it is not a fan of social distancing on aircraft, the airline is heavily ramping up its hygiene measures. Photo: Qatar Airways

Questioning authorities

The executive then turned his attention to the government of the United Kingdom’s policies on quarantine. Despite considerably relaxing national lockdown measures, the country had recently introduced a 14-day quarantine policy.

Al Baker said the below about the government’s actions.

“Your prime minister’s encouraging people to travel. So I think it was a bit unwise for him to introduce quarantine when he actually requires people to come and start visiting the UK and fuelling the economic and business resurgence in the United Kingdom.”

He added that he doesn’t think that it is a good idea to place quarantine procedures at the tail end of the pandemic. In his opinion, it should have been introduced in the beginning.

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UK PM Boris Johnson
Al Baker is not impressed with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s travel policy. Photo: Getty Images

Communication is key

These statements echo the views of several British residents. Authorities had minimal travel restrictions in place when the outbreak was at its peak in the country. While its neighbors are relaxing their measures, the government has now decided to introduce a quarantine. However, the worst of the damage has already been done.

Not including public holidays, the general annual leave allowance in the UK is approximately 20 days. Therefore, if someone takes a trip abroad, no matter how short it is, they would spend most of their allocation in quarantine.

Regardless, no matter what policies are in place, there needs to be clear communication with airlines, airports, and other aviation bodies. Several groups have complained that they have not been consulted during the decision making process. Therefore, a little dialogue will go a long way to help plan for the future.

What are your thoughts on Akbar Al Baker’s views on social distancing and quarantine measures? Do you agree with the CEO of Qatar Airways? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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