DUBAI- Qatar Airways cabin crew will begin wearing protective suits and passengers will have to wear face masks on board, the Middle East airline said on Monday, as it begins rebuilding its network after the coronavirus pandemic grounded flights.
Cabin crew have already been wearing face masks and gloves while on board but will now also wear suits over their uniforms, while face masks would be mandatory for passengers from May 25, the airline said in a statement.
Cabin crew and passenger interactions will be reduced, it added.
"We have introduced these additional safety measures onboard our flights to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of our passengers and cabin crew, and to limit the spread of coronavirus," Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said.
Those not wearing a face mask inside Qatar risk a fine of 200,000 riyals ($55,000) and a maximum prison sentence of three years.
The International Air Transport Association, the body representing global airlines, earlier this month came out in favour of passengers wearing masks onboard, as debate intensifies over how to get airlines flying while respecting social-distancing rules following the coronavirus crisis.
On short- and medium-haul flights, one set of Qatar Airways' cabin crew will operate the outbound flight and a second group the inbound.
The state-owned airline is laying off 20% of its workforce and has told employees cabin crew would be made redundant.
It has been one of few airlines to continue regular, scheduled flights during the global lockdowns to contain the novel coronavirus, maintaining services to around 30 destinations.
The airline said this month it would start resuming flights to destinations it had suspended due to the virus outbreak and that it aimed to fly to up to 80 destinations by June.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Kirsten Donovan) ((Alexander.Cornwell@thomsonreuters.com;))