All frontline Qantas employees, including pilots and cabin crew, will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 15th November. All other staff will have until 31st March 2022 to get both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine or face potential dismissal, the Australian airline announced on Wednesday.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said a recent survey of employees emboldened his decision to make vaccination compulsory after 89 per cent of those polled said they had already been vaccinated or planned to be. Around 4 per cent of staff said they weren’t willing to have the vaccine.
“We understand there will be a very small number of people who decide not to get the vaccine, and that’s their right, but it’s our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our employees and for our customers,” Joyce commented after the vaccine mandate was confirmed.
A further 4 per cent of respondents said they hadn’t yet decided if they wanted the vaccine – today’s vaccine mandate may be enough to help them make their decision.
Joyce has been an advocate for compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for some time and has even suggested that international passengers might be required to show proof of vaccination before being allowed to travel with the airline once international flights get up and running again.
“It’s clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again,” Joyce continued.
Qantas has been hit by continuing lockdowns in Australia that have once again decimated domestic demand. The airline recently stood down more than 20,000 staff as lockdown restrictions drag on.
The Australian federal government has explicitly linked vaccination rates to the reopening of the country’s borders although any significant easing of restrictions isn’t likely to come until mid-2022 at the earliest.
Thousands of aviation workers who have anything to do with international flights in New South Wales, South Australia and New Zealand are already required to be vaccinated under local laws but the Qantas vaccine mandate has the potential to test Australian employment laws.
To make the mandate as fair as possible, Qantas said it would allow exemptions for certain medical conditions but it expects these exemptions to be very rare. The airline is still to have more discussions with employees and unions on how to implement the mandate.
Following Qantas’ vaccine mandate announcement, Virgin Australia said it was considering whether it should follow suit. The airline pointed out at 84 per cent of frontline staff are already vaccinated or registered to be once they become eligible.
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.