Qatar Airways successfully completed the world’s first fully vaccinated flight with all 188 passengers, two pilots and 18 cabin crew vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic. The flight operated by the Airbus A350-1000 took off from Doha on April 6, marking a milestone in the pandemic as airlines look to the future of resumed travel. Qatar Airways is the first airline in the world to operate such a flight where everyone on board must show proof of a vaccine.
Ground personnel working on the flight were also fully vaccinated, essentially creating a travel bubble.
On board were travel agents, media and frequent travelers from Qatar Privilege Club who were required to show proof of the vaccine prior to departure. Despite the vaccination requirement, passengers were still required to wear masks except when eating or drinking, and in the economy class section, the airline kept an empty seat between passengers for additional social distancing.
The airline’s medical director Dr John Roberts, who also traveled on the flight, said masks are an important part of preventing transmission of the virus, even though all passengers and crew have been fully vaccinated. Airlines around the world are requiring passengers to wear masks on flights, although Roberts believes that in the near future, when vaccines become more widespread, the requirement will be relaxed.
The three-hour flight from Doha had no destination, flying over Dubai and passing through Omani airspace before returning to Hamad International Airport. The carrier has supported the “flight to nowhere” through its carbon offset program.
Qatar Airways Group Managing Director His Excellency Akbar Al Baker believes vaccine requirements will be the way forward for safe travel. Although his airline does not need a vaccine to travel on its scheduled flights, he says there may come a time in the near future when airlines will require proof of a vaccine before travel.
According to Al Baker, the fully vaccinated flight “offers a glimmer of hope for the future of international aviation.”
The airline “strongly encourages” its staff to get vaccinated or have a PCR test every three days before going to work. These efforts, according to Al Baker, guarantee passengers the airline’s intense safety protocols.
Last year, the airline was one of the few to require the use of masks and face shields for all passengers. According to Roberts, the requirement for a face shield was lifted after research showed that aircraft ventilation systems using “high efficiency particulate air” (HEPA) filters, in tandem with masks, were effective. to limit the transmission of the virus.
The vaccinated flight was also the launch of the airline’s new contactless entertainment system. Zero contact technology allows passengers to pair their mobile device with the seat entertainment system after scanning a QR code and entering a password. Then customers can select movies, music, and other entertainment without having to touch the screen.
Doha Hamad International Airport is the first and only in the Middle East and Asia to achieve the 5-star Skytrax Covid-19 safety rating. The airport uses robotic cleaning machines in addition to ultraviolet light technology to disinfect the terminal, seats, security bins and baggage carts. Similar equipment is used on airline planes between flights.
Qatar’s borders remain closed to international visitors as the country continues to navigate the pandemic. The country immunizes around 1,000 people a day.
Unlike many airlines, Qatar Airways has not significantly slowed down its operations, despite the pandemic. It operates 1,200 weekly flights to more than 140 cities around the world. The airline has also expanded its network of routes by adding flights to San Francisco and Seattle / Tacoma in 2020.