Skift Take

Vaccine mandates are the next big thing for the travel industry with many companies requiring staff get their jabs. Now Qantas may be the first to take the logical next step with a mandate that passengers on international flights do the same.

Qantas Airways may become one of the first airlines in the world to mandate vaccines for passengers when it resumes long-haul international flights later this year.

“Qantas will have a policy that internationally, we will only be carrying vaccinated passengers,” CEO Alan Joyce told the Trans – Tasman Business Circle on Tuesday.

Joyce’s comments come as Australia evaluates plans to reopen its border in December. The country has been closed to non-citizens — with the exception of a short-lived travel bubble with New Zealand — since March 2020 in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. The government has set a requirement that 80 percent of the Australian population be vaccinated before the border reopens.

Australian officials have not said whether a vaccine will be required for entry into the country when borders do reopen. However, in his comments Joyce said Qantas hopes officials settle on a policy of only requiring quarantines for those without their jabs.

Speaking of vaccine mandates for staff and travelers, Joyce told the business circle that he believes they are an “obligation” for the company to protect both the health of its employees and Australians broadly.

A broad array of international airlines are mandating vaccines for staff. The list ranges from AirAsia and Singapore Airlines in Asia, to Air Canada and United Airlines in North America, and Swiss International Air Lines in Europe. Qantas’ top domestic competitor Virgin Australia has yet to issue a formal mandate but has said that it is in talks with labor unions regarding one.

Mandate or not, Qantas has a long recovery road ahead. The airline suspended nearly all of its long-haul operations during the pandemic when it stored most of its wide-body jets and retired the venerable Boeing 747. When international flights resume, it plans to initially fly Airbus A330s and Boeing 787s on routes to North America and Europe before returning some of its superjumbo Airbus A380s to the sky next July.

Qantas’ first long-haul markets are likely to include Canada and the UK, both of which are on track to have vaccination rates comparable to Australia’s 80 percent goal, he told the business circle. He did not mention the U.S. — only saying markets in “North America” and citing Canada — where vaccine hesitancy has slowed the rollout. As of Thursday, only 53 percent of Americans were fully vaccinated, and nearly 65 percent of those over 18 years old, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows.

Despite starting vaccinates later than the U.S., more than 40 percent of Australians were already fully inoculated by September 8, according to national Department of Health data.

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Tags: Covid vaccine, qantas

Photo Credit: Qantas may be the first international airline to mandate vaccines for passengers. mikecogh / Flickr