Dubai: When my editor asked me when was the last time I was inside an aeroplane, I replied it was like ages ago. It really felt like that since it was more than a year I was on a flight and international travel was vastly restricted and limited because of the coronavirus pandemic. So, when the assignment to cover Emirates Flight EK2021 was given to me, I accepted it with both hands.
Arriving at Dubai International Airport (DXB) Terminal 3 on a Saturday morning, I immediately felt the sense of excitement as passengers were preparing to check in for the special Emirates flight for fully-vaccinated crew and passengers.
Yes, it was a flight to nowhere – as the A380 plane took off and landed at the same airport – but it was also a flight to everywhere as passengers (especially those frequent travellers) felt it was a signal of return to air travel normality.
People I interviewed all agreed it was a symbolic flight – but one that would give confidence to individuals to travel even during pandemic, provided health and safety protocols are properly observed. And it was what the passengers and crew of EK2021 demonstrated on the flight – they were all fully-vaccinated, and even tested negative prior to the flight, but they still wore face masks (except when hot meals were served) throughout the four-hour flight duration.
EK2021 was a testament to the importance of vaccination. Passengers would really feel safer and more relaxed if they travel with people who have received the jab.
Many people miss flying but there is still the risk of catching the virus. Getting the vaccine, however, has given them some hope and protection from the disease. The flight itself was a celebration of the UAE’s aggressive vaccination campaign. With over nine million doses of vaccine to date, soon the country could reach herd immunity and give people more confidence to fly.
To quote one of the passengers, Sam Chui, a Dubai-based Chinese travel and aviation blogger, “lots of people have not travelled for over a year. To see the joy on their faces during the flight, was such a pleasure.”
But EK2021 was not only for the passengers, it was also for the men and women – the airline industry crew – who were hit hard by the pandemic. They also felt the sense of recovery as passengers will start flying again.
Before serving refreshments to EK 2021 passengers, I caught the EK crew in a huddle and the senior purser gave them a pep talk. She said: “Let’s give the passengers an unforgettable experience.”
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It was indeed an unforgettable experience – being able to see again the UAE above 15,000 feet from a window plane.