Air New Zealand will follow Australian neighbour Qantas by mandating full COVID-19 vaccination for passengers on all international flights beginning February 1, 2022, the airline announced on Sunday.
“Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is the new reality of international travel,” said Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran. “Many of the destinations Kiwis want to visit are already closed to unvaccinated visitors,” Foran continued as means to justify the carrier’s new vaccine mandate further.
“The quicker we get vaccinated, the sooner we can fly Kiwis to places like New York, Vancouver and Narita.” Cut off from the world; New Zealand is hinging its ability to safely reopen its border on the success of its vaccine rollout.
According to Our World in Data, however, only 34 per cent of New Zealand’s population is so far fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Foran said that customers and employees alike had been calling on the airline to issue a vaccine mandate. With COVID-19 under control domestically, though, the order will only be extended to international services.
“It came through loud and clear in our recent consultation process with employees and we want to do everything we can to protect them,” Foran continued.
The same limitation has been applied by Qantas, which hopes to restart international flights from Sydney to London and Los Angeles in November.
Along with a requirement to be fully vaccinated, passengers on Qantas’ first regularly scheduled flights to Europe and North America in more than 18-months will also need to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce put passengers on notice that full vaccination would be a requirement for international travel months ago. It was little surprise that Qantas was following through with its passenger vaccine mandate, but it’s been a waiting game to see what other airlines will follow suit.
Even United Airlines, which has achieved a vaccination rate of more than 99.5 per cent amongst non-exempt employees, hasn’t gone so far as to make the same demand of passengers.
That being said, foreign passengers bound for the United States will have to be fully vaccinated once the Biden administration introduces new travel rules next month.
Foran acknowledges that some people, including some of his own employees, will disagree with the vaccine requirements, but he remains unapologetic.
“We know this is the right thing to do to protect our people, our customers and the wider New Zealand community,” he said on Sunday.
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.