Emirates has flown a fully vaccinated passenger ‘flight to nowhere’ as the aviation industry prepares to bounce back following global Covid travel restrictions.
Flight EK2021 – given a special flight number – was staffed by fully vaccinated flight crew and staff on the ground.
All passengers onboard were given rapid Covid-19 tests, said the airline, and they had their passports stamped with a special “Choose to Vaccinate” commemorative mark.
The flight comes as the United Arab Emirates races ahead with its vaccination programme. The Gulf country, currently sitting on the UK’s “red list”, has administered almost nine million vaccines to citizens so far.
The airline itself has been busily vaccinating its staff, with 35,000 workers given Covid jabs.
The flight was a “showcase of the combined efforts and dedication of all stakeholders in supporting the vaccination programme, and the implementation of protocols in the past 12 months to ensure a safe travel journey, stimulate passenger traffic and set the groundwork for the ramp up of air travel in the near future,” said His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline & Group.
“Emirates continues to support the national vaccination programme and we are pleased with the progress made within the group in vaccinating our employees.”
The flight follows fellow “Gulfie” Qatar Airways, which last week flew the world’s first fully vaccinated “flight to nowhere”.
Flight QR6421 departed Doha’s Hamad International Airport at 11am on 6 April, and landed back at the same airport three hours later.
Data from tracking website FlightRadar24 shows the plane taking off from Doha, flying across the United Arab Emirates and down the length of Oman before turning back.
It was staffed by fully vaccinated crew at all points: from check-in to the flight crew onboard. Only vaccinated passengers were allowed to fly, Qatar Airways said.
The president of Emirates, Sir Tim Clark, said last week he expected worldwide passenger numbers to recover next year.
Speaking to the aviation website Simple Flying, he said a “bow-wave of demand” would need to be met by a “diminished airline community” – with a particular surge between October and December this year.
“I’m very optimistic about what’s likely to happen during the course of the back three calendar months of this year,” he said.