Qantas CEO Makes Waves By Declaring Vaccine A Condition To Fly
Lynn Elmhirst, Open Jaw Trends Editor

Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas

Anti-vaxxers need not pack their bags. If the CEO of Qantas is right, COVID vaccination will become a new requirement of carriage around the world.

Even before any COVID vaccine has been approved, the airline executive has come out saying only those who have proof of immunization will be flying – at least on his airline.

In an interview Monday on Australian TV, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce reportedly became the first global airline executive to declare, “We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say that, for international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft,” he revealed.

“Whether you need that domestically, we will have to see with Covid-19 and the market but certainly, for international visitors… and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity.”

Australia’s COVID-related travel and border policies are already among the strictest in the world, including an almost-complete ban on both inbound and outbound international travel and severe restrictions on domestic travel. That’s credited with helping the country contain the pandemic more successfully than many other countries.

On Trend?

“Unfortunately with the levels of the virus in the United States and in Europe, we’re not going to see operations to those destinations in any real strength until we see a vaccine being rolled out… likely towards the end of 2021,” he said.

Other industry executives and observers are hoping for an earlier positive impact from vaccinations. But when vaccines do become available, Joyce thinks they are likely to become a standard requirement, and not just for Australians.

“I think that’s going to be a common thing talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe,” said Joyce. 

A New Kind of Passport

“What we are looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you are traveling to.”

In the same interview, Joyce said creating a vaccination passport for travellers both to and from Australia would essentially have to be a global system requiring international government collaboration. 

As has previously been noted in OpenJaw, proof of vaccination as a travel requirement –  to certain destinations – is not new. But not on this global scale.

But since news of Joyce’s interview came out, also came word that IATA has taken the initiative to develop its own ‘Travel Pass” to help support the travel industry’s recovery. IATA’s app displays not only proof of vaccination, but also COVID test results, verifying pax’ COVID-free status and even linking to a digitized version of their passport. It starts testing with Qantas’ oneworld alliance partner British Airways within the coming weeks.

No airline in Canada has yet announced vaccination as a condition of carriage. But it seems likely that, as the vaccinations currently being tested are rolled out to broader populations, travel suppliers will follow Qantas’ suit.

That’s if national governments themselves don’t impose vaccination requirements on inbound travellers to protect local populations. 

So travellers could be looking at acquiring a second passport  -or, if successfully tested, the IATA app – when they make plans to travel. One that proves to border guards, airlines, cruise lines, even hotels… that the bearer is vaccinated against, and tests negative for COVID-19.

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