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As Muslims around the world begin fasting this week in observance of Ramadan, travellers on Gulf airlines Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways may notice subtle differences when flying during the Islamic Holy month.
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan this year begins on Thursday June 18 and concludes on Thursday July 16. Muslims fast during daylight hours throughout Ramadan, although non-Muslim travellers needn’t worry about going hungry: you’ll still find food waiting for you in the lounges and in the air.
But when it comes to alcohol, each airline has a different policy. Here's what you can expect from each of the Gulf's 'big three'.
Alcohol during Ramadan: Emirates
A spokesperson for Qantas partner Emirates told Australian Business Traveller that “Emirates will continue to offer alcohol in all lounges and on flights during Ramadan.”
For non-Muslims, that means you can enjoy a glass of Veuve Clicquot or Moët & Chandon in all of Emirates' worldwide lounges, including in Australia and in Dubai, with the A380 inflight bar and lounge buzzing as usual.
However, Emirates notes that alcohol isn’t available on flights to or from Saudi Arabia – including destinations Riyadh, Jeddah, Medina and Dammam – “which has always been the case, regardless of Ramadan", the spokesman said.
Alcohol during Ramadan: Etihad Airways
Etihad will continue serving alcohol in its international lounges including in Sydney, London and Paris, but this “will not be displayed in the bar area in the usual manner during daylight fasting hours”, an Etihad spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller.
However, the airline's lounges at its Abu Dhabi hub will not serve alcohol during daylight fasting times "out of respect for local customs," with the lounge's bars open only from 7pm to 3am daily until Ramadan concludes.
Alcohol will continue to be available as usual on all Etihad flights, including those departing from or arriving at Abu Dhabi Airport.
Alcohol during Ramadan: Qatar Airways
Alcohol will still be served on flights during Ramadan – including from Doha to Australia and Europe, and in the airline’s London Heathrow lounge.
However, a Qatar Airways spokesperson advised that “in respect of the Holy month of Ramadan, alcohol will not be served in (Doha’s) Hamad International Airport during Ramadan." This means that, in effect, Qatar lounges at Doha will be an around-the-clock 'dry zone' until Ramadan’s end on July 16.
This same policy will also apply at the Al Mourjan Lounge and Qatar’s separate ‘business class’ and ‘first class’ lounges for Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members travelling in economy.
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