The chief executive of German flag carrier Lufthansa says the airline doesn’t have the power to mandate vaccination against COVID-19 as a pre-requisite for international travel and even if it did, he wouldn’t want to impose such a requirement. Nonetheless, Carsten Spohr believes providing proof of vaccination or, at the very least, proof of a negative COVID-19 test will soon become as normal as passing through a metal detector before being allowed onboard an international flight.
“As an airline, we neither can nor want to stipulate that,” Spohr told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag when asked whether Lufthansa could follow Australian airline Qantas in making proof of vaccination a condition of travel.
So far, Qantas is the only carrier to have publicly and enthusiastically backed mandatory vaccination. Chief executive Alan Joyce has unapologetically promoted the idea despite the fact that the Australian government hasn’t yet made its official stance on the issue known.
However, it’s widely believed that many countries will only reopen their borders to visitors who can prove they have received a vaccination to protect themselves against the novel Coronavirus once multi vaccines become more widespread.
“Personally, I assume that in the future every passenger on certain intercontinental routes is either tested or vaccinated,” Spohr told the newspaper on Sunday.
Lufthansa has been trialling rapid pre-departure COVID-19 testing on a small number of flights in an effort to reopen international travel and ease border restrictions. Concerns about the accuracy of some of the antigen tests, however, remain a stumbling block that has prevented a widespread rollout.
If those obstacles can be overcome, Spohr hopes to deploy the tests on more flights in the near future as part of a first phase of the airline’s new year recovery.
“In the second phase, there will probably be an option between a test or proof of vaccination,” Spohr explained.
Spohr’s comments came on the same day that Germany and the rest of Europe started its vaccination programme using the Pfizer / BioNTech jab. But while Germany did relatively well at controlling the spread of the virus during the first wave in the Spring, a harsh second wave has sent the country into a hard lockdown.
On Christmas Eve, the Robert Koch Institute recorded over 32,000 newly confirmed cases and 802 deaths. Germany’s total death toll since the start of the pandemic now stands at nearly 30,000 prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to implore German’s to stay at home and avoid all but the most essential travel.
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.