Last Monday, Qatar Airways, the country’s national airline announced it was giving free tickets to 100,000 doctors and nurses to any destination it flies to around the world. A sign of its appreciation to all those frontline workers who’ve been risking their lives ever since the Covid-19 pandemic became global.
The generous gesture has been received positively not just by those who stand to benefit from the free tickets, but by people who see it as a nice overture at a time when the news has been so depressing.
But there are also those who claim the announcement was a cynical move by the airline. Aside from the fact that giving away free tickets would potentially help airline sales rebound as most people are unlikely to travel alone and therefore healthcare workers’ friends and family members would purchase tickets to join them on their free trip; some claim the timing of Monday’s announcement was to coverup the bad news of a few days before.
That news was the decision by Qatar Airways to layoff an estimated 30% of its cabin crew staff, in other words, more than 5,000 people; which prompted many to question what criteria would be used considering no discussions made with staff representatives.
According to this article, amongst those to lose their jobs will be cabin crew members who’ve been at the airline for 15 years or more. Which means that instead of rewarding loyalty, Qatar Airways is in fact punishing it.
Prior to this, some staff were critical of an announcement made by the airline’s management stating that all Doha based staff would have 50% of their salaries deferred without stating when that 50% would be paid back to them or giving any guarantees that it actually would.
And whilst companies around the world, especially airlines have struggled to cope with the unprecedented fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there has been specific criticism levelled at Qatar Airways. For example, the airline was amongst the last to suspend flights to coronavirus hotspots such as China, whilst neighbouring countries like Kuwait had shut their borders entirely.
There were reports that staff who work at Hamad International Airport, serving transit passengers after the government had suspended entry into the country, were initially not given secluded accommodation. If this is true, it would mean that those airport staff could have been potential carriers of the coronavirus and spread it to their neighbours, friends and family, thus undermining the measures taken by the state to combat the virus.
Doha News understands that now all airport staff are accommodated in secure and secluded residences.
There are many however that believe Qatar Airways should be commended, while other airlines were either unable or unwilling to fly, it continued operating and was able to repatriate tens of thousands of people and help them get back home; among them, medical workers crucial in the fight against COVID-19, albeit that wasn’t done free of charge.
Doha News reached out to Qatar Airways for comment, however, we did not receive a response.
Do you work for Qatar Airways? Are you one of those affected by the layoffs? If so get in touch.