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By being the first global carrier to officially mandate Covid-19 jabs for travelers, Air New Zealand may have just set off a new wave of vaccine requirements for international travel.

Air New Zealand will mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for all international travelers from February 1, 2022, a first for an airline and signs that strict requirements are now moving from airline workers to flyers.

The move makes the Auckland-based carrier the first to set a date for a traveler vaccine mandate. In September, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline will require vaccines for international flyers likely from the restart of long-haul flights, which is currently set for November. The Canadian government has also said it will mandate vaccines for travelers, both on flights and other modes of transportation, from sometime this fall.

“Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is the new reality of international travel,” said Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran in a statement. “Mandating vaccination on our international flights will give both customers and employees the peace of mind that everyone onboard meets the same health requirements as they do.”

Air New Zealand staff are also required to get their jabs.

Most of the recent focus on vaccine mandates has centered on airline staff. In the U.S., United Airlines was the first to implement a mandate and — with the threat of termination — achieved more than 99.5 percent compliance among its workforce. Other carriers, including Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, have told staff they need to get vaccinated following U.S. government guidance and pressure from the White House.

Air New Zealand’s vaccine mandate comes even as it continues to fly a greatly reduced international schedule. Speaking in August, Foran said there was a “large degree of uncertainty” around when long-haul services could resume, and added that the airline does not expect a “swift recovery of pre-Covid international demand.”

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Tags: air new zealand, coronavirus, covid-19

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