Face masks on flights could be here to stay, says Air Arabia CEO Adel Ali

Budget airline boss, however, rules out social distancing on planes

CEO of Sharjah-based budget carrier Air Arabia, Adel Ali, is looking forward to ramping up operations as restrictions continue to ease. Image: ITP Media Group

Wearing a face mask while flying on an aeroplane may be a ruling that remains forever, according to the CEO of Sharjah-based budget carrier Air Arabia.

However, Adel Ali has told Arabian Business that any form of social distancing in aeroplanes would not work.

Airlines have implemented the wearing of face masks while flying as part of a raft of health and safety precautionary measures brought in to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

Ali told Arabian Business: “I think it will take some time that we will continue with the masks and it could be forever. It’s one of those things, it’s not the first pandemic we’ve had in history. Probably in our lifetime, yes, but in history there has been a lot. People would love to get back to normality and get back to normal, but you need to feel that it’s safe to do so.

“We can all predict our own views at this stage, but time will tell. Wearing a mask on an aeroplane is a healthy thing regardless of having Covid-19 or not.”

The company headed into this year on the back of record profits recorded in 2019, which totalled $272.24 million, an 80 percent increase over the previous year.

However, following the onset of Covid-19 and the enforced lockdowns and movement restrictions, the carrier reported a net loss of $46m for the first half of this year with turnover dropping 53 percent to $278m, compared to $592m in the same period last year.

Air Arabia today is operating around 45 percent of its fleet of 50 aeroplanes in a mix of scheduled, repatriation, charter, and cargo flights across its operating hubs in the UAE, Morocco, and Egypt.

Ali is looking forward to ramping this up as restrictions continue to ease. However, he does not envisage social distancing to form part of the carrier’s resurgence.

“The aeroplanes are one of the healthiest and cleanest places you can be in terms of air pollution. I think that, as long as people follow the procedures put in place, we see that social distancing is not going to have any positive or negative impact on an aeroplane,” he said.

“Equally, I don’t think if the full two metres social distancing is applied on an aeroplane, commercially it just won’t be viable for the industry to continue.”

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