Qatar Airways demands visors on top of face masks – but now only for Africans

  • Qatar Airways dropped its Omicron ban on South Africans in January.
  • But if you want to fly via Doha, you’ll need to wear a face shield visor as well as a mask – if you are from South Africa, Mozambique, or Zambia.
  • That is despite the fact that the government of Qatar has all three countries on its green list.
  • The airline hasn’t said why.
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Qatar Airways is flying passengers out of South Africa again – after an extended Omicron ban – but is demanding that passengers from this country wear a provided clear plastic visor as well as the more common face shield, for reasons that are not entirely clear.

Journalist Carien du Plessis tweeted a selfie in her airline-provided visor this week, and related her conversation with a staff member about the unusual precaution.

Qatar Airways lists three countries for which the mask-and-visor rule holds: South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia. It does not say why, but makes it clear that visors are required for the entire duration of the flight.

Qatar’s ministry of public health currently has South Africa on its green list of countries. Mozambique and Zambia are also on its green list.

Qatar Airways did not respond to a request for comment.

The airline made face shield visors (on top of face masks) compulsory in July 2020 – for economy-class passengers. Those in business class were required to wear their face shields while they got on and off the plane, but once ensconced in their cabin, they could choose to wear it or not.

Qatar never provided a compelling scientific basis for the introduction of the visors, but splashed its protective equipment with the slogan “Travel with Confidence”.

As for exempting business-class passengers from their use in the air, it pointed to the greater amount of space afforded to each passenger above what is colloquially referred to as “cattle class”.

See also | Passengers on Qatar Airways must now wear a face shield as well as a mask — except in business class

Face shields are not entirely unknown on international flights, but are not in widespread use either. The world’s biggest airline charger, TUI, asks passengers to wear a shield (or “splash screen”) if they have a medical reason not to wear a face mask. Japan Airlines likewise offers face shields as an alternative to masks, if “it is difficult to wear a mask”.

Last weekend Qatar eased its Covid-19 restrictions, dropping a requirement for masks to be worn outdoors.

Qatar Airways maintained flights to and from South Africa during parts of the pandemic when few other airlines did, but hastily imposed a travel ban in late November, in light of the Omicron variant. It later extended that ban, and canceled flights with little notice.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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