The chief executive of Australian flag carrier Qantas has brushed aside criticism of a controversial ‘no jab, no fly’ policy confirming that passengers on international services will need proof of vaccination against COVID-19 when regularly scheduled flights restart next year.
Alan Joyce said during a market update on Thursday the airline would “always put safety ahead of popularity” and that polling suggested that the vast majority of passengers agreed with Qantas’ tough stance on vaccination.
One recent survey carried out on Qantas customers revealed that 87 per cent would take a vaccine against COVID-19 if it was required for international travel, while 85 per cent thought proof of vaccination should be a requirement to step onboard an international flight.
While other airlines, including some U.S. carriers, are considering their position on the COVID-19 vaccine, the wider aviation industry has insisted that it’s too soon to take a stance on mandatory vaccination and has instead urged governments to focus on the immediate challenges through rapid pre-departure testing and quarantine.
Not even Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has gone so far as to say that travellers must be vaccinated in order to come to Australia but if they don’t have proof of vaccination, they’ll likely be forced to spend two weeks in mandatory hotel quarantine.
“Our position on this is clear,” Joyce said on Thursday. “We have a duty of care to our people and our passengers, and once a safe and effective vaccine becomes readily available, it will be a requirement for travel on our international services.”
“There will be some exceptions for people who can’t – for medical reasons – take vaccines. And our flights to New Zealand will probably be exempt given their success at controlling COVID as well, just as domestic flights will be exempt,” he continued.
Passengers on domestic services would also not be required to show proof of vaccination.
As for anti-vaxxers, Joyce accepted it was their choice whether they took a vaccine or not. But their choice would affect their ability to fly with Qantas.
“I acknowledge some people are opposed to vaccines in-principle,” Joyce commented. “We respect that. But in return, we ask everyone who travels on Qantas and Jetstar to respect our safety protocols – which will include a COVID vaccine for international flights, at least until the pandemic is under control overseas.”
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is currently working on a range of mobile apps that will help passengers show proof of vaccination, along with being able to long COVID-19 test results and a health declaration. COVID-19 passports, however, prove a controversial subject and there’s no international consensus on how they might work.
Qantas confirmed on Thursday that international services would not restart until mid-2021 at the earliest.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.