Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport (HIA) have affirmed their eagerness to take all preventive measures against the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
This came at a joint press conference held on Tuesday by HIA chief operating officer Badr al-Meer and Qatar Airways senior vice-president (Marketing and Corporate Communications) Salam al-Shawa on the latest developments and measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
At the press conference, HIA stressed its keenness to achieve the highest safety standards for travellers and employees working at the airport by taking all preventive and precautionary measures against Covid-19 in implementation of the directives of the wise leadership.
Qatar Airways announced the suspension of its flights to some of the cities where the epidemic is spreading, such as New York, Madrid and Barcelona, in the context of the precautionary measures that guarantee the safety and health of all travellers and airport workers.
Al-Meer said all operations at HIA involve fruitful and effective co-operation between the various entities working at the airport, such as the Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) and Qatar Airways Group, to ensure the highest safety standards for travellers and employees working at the airport.
He pointed out that the main reason for the continuation of some Qatar Airways operations is the return of Qatari citizens from the affected countries to their homeland. He said Qatar Airways has a great responsibility towards the country and citizens, the most important of which is the evacuation and return of Qatari nationals to the homeland from the affected countries. This is the main reason for the continuation of the airline's operations, he observed.
Some Qatari citizens are still abroad for study, treatment or work in addition to the families, the elderly, children and youth present in some of the affected countries. This requires Qatar Airways, as a national carrier, to take the necessary measures to return them to the homeland as soon as possible to preserve their safety before matters become more complicated in those countries, such as reaching the stage of airport closures, he explained.
The HIA official also stressed that no passenger is transported via Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport without ensuring that the airports in the final destinations are open with no restrictions on air traffic and passenger reception. He noted that some passengers at HIA faced difficulties when countries decided to cancel their flights or close airports.
Further, he said HIA, in co-operation with the MoI, MoTC and MoPH, provided assistance for travellers who had problems reaching their final destinations.
He stressed that Hamad International Airport has taken all preventive measures in co-ordination with the MoPH, which include reducing the number of employees at the airport by 40%, who are now working remotely. He added that 60% of the staff are receiving training on matters like how to deal with travellers.
He also said that the airport is undergoing sterilisation operations that take place round the clock, with closures in the duty free area and covering all shops except for some restaurants in accordance with the requirements of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the decisions of the Ministry of Public Health. He said all the airports workers will undergo testing in co-operation with the MoPH.
On maintaining transit operations, he said Qatar Airways is one of the biggest airlines in the world and that there are a number of airports around the world that remain open, and all necessary precautions are being taken against the spread of the virus.
The COO said operations of Qatar Airways are down by more than 75% with the suspension of more than 75% of its fleet, with the decline likely to reach 90% soon. He also said the number of passengers at HIA fell by 90% compared to the pre-crisis days.
He reiterated that the continuation of operations was due to humanitarian reasons, including the repatriation of Qatari citizens and the transportation of medicines and medical equipment that require urgent transportation via freight or passenger aircraft. He also pointed out that 60% of the food coming to Doha arrives via passenger planes and not through cargo aircraft because some airports prevent cargo planes from landing.
On her part, al-Shawa said the carrier's top priority is ensuring safety and security, saying that it has taken all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of its passengers and staff.
Qatar Airways has suspended flights to cities like New York, Madrid and Barcelona to ensure the safety of passengers. She noted that Qatar Airways is a global company with responsibilities towards its community, adding that the company has played a role in transporting medical supplies to countries like China and Iran. The carrier has also co-operated with Oman to transport dozens of Omani students who were trapped in the UK and US.
She stressed that all crew members on Qatar Airways are committed to the necessary health procedures and requirements such as wearing gloves and masks, as well as the use of sterilisers and other health requirements to maintain their safety and that of travellers. The crew has also been trained to maintain a safe distance between them and passengers. Crew members are also screened before and after every trip. She added that those who were infected were not working, and were on their annual vacation.
She stressed that all workers and crews on board Qatar Airways planes are trained to deal with any cases, and take all necessary precautionary measures in this regard. She added that the carrier operates two crews for short trips, one for the outbound flight and the other to return in order to prevent the stay of crews in other countries.
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