Qantas: Vaccination mandatory for international flights - Should airlines follow?

Khanh Ngo writes on Qantas' decision to require vaccination for COVID in order to fly with them, and the implications for the travel industry.

Khanh Ngo
7th December 2020
The chief executive of the Australian flag carrier says once a Covid-19 vaccine is readily available, proof of vaccination will be a non-negotiable condition of flight.

In an interview with Australia’s Nine Network on 23 November, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was asked about the airline’s policy once a vaccine has been distributed to the community.

He replied: “We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers, that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft. Certainly for international visitors coming out, and people leaving the country. We think that’s a necessity.”

The legality of mandatory vaccination has become a hot topic recently as vaccine developers report promising results and as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the UK last week.

“I think [proof of vaccination is] going to be a common thing, talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe”, Mr. Joyce added. Nevertheless, as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said: “We can’t hold someone down and make them take it.”

Is this the future of international travel?

Qantas’ action in requiring a vaccination to fly is commendable in that it aims to protect passengers and staff as well as their citizens against possible exposure to the coronavirus. It is in line with the Australian government’s aggressive response to Covid-19: shutting down its international borders early in the pandemic and requiring those returning to quarantine.

In comparison, the UK’s measures against the pandemic have been weak, and so it doesn’t look like a mandatory vaccination for travelling is going to be well-received, especially when it was confirmed that the vaccine will be voluntary.

That said, when it comes to flying internationally, this looks like the best way if things are to become normal again. It’s a simple choice: if you want to travel to another country, you have to choose to protect not only others (who might not be as privileged to have the vaccine available for themselves) but yourself as well.

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