Governments to require vaccines for international travellers, Qantas chief says

Australia’s national airline will require international travellers to have a Covid-19 vaccine before they board its aircraft

Alan Joyce, chief executive officer of Qantas Airways Ltd., during a panel discussion during the AFR Summit in Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Joyce has said vaccination will be a necessity for its international passengers and is likely to become a pre-boarding requirement around the globe. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Governments will "insist" in future that international travellers have a Covid-19 vaccine before they are allowed to fly, according to the boss of Australian airline Qantas Airways.

Many governments are talking about vaccination as "a condition of entry", Alan Joyce, chief executive of Qantas, said in an interview with the BBC.

Even if governments do not make vaccines mandatory, the aviation executive said his airline should enforce its own policy.

Mr Joyce previously reiterated that the airline will require international travellers to have a Covid-19 vaccination before they board its aircraft.

"We have a duty of care to our passengers and to our crew, to say that everybody in that aircraft needs to be safe," Mr Joyce said.

The aviation industry has been divided in an intensifying debate on whether Covid-19 vaccinations should be a requirement for air travel. While some have supported the safety measure to boost travellers' confidence, others have voiced concerns that a blanket rule for pre-flight vaccines would be disruptive for the industry as waiting for shots would prevent people from travelling until they are distributed widely.

However, Mr Joyce thinks passengers would be willing to accept a vaccine requirement to resume flying.

"The vast majority of our customers think this is a great idea – 90 per cent of people that we've surveyed think it should be a requirement for people to be vaccinated to travel internationally," he said.

Qantas delayed plans to restart most international flights by four months until late October, in line with the country's vaccination programme completion, after swinging to a first-half loss due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The carrier posted an underlying loss before tax of A$1.03 billion ($820.4 millon) in the six months ended December 31, compared to a profit of A$771m a year earlier. Half-year revenue dropped 75 per cent year-on-year to A$2.33bn.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on the global aviation industry, dwarfing that of previous major crises such as 9/11, Sars or the global financial crisis.

Overall, in terms of passenger demand, the pandemic has hurled the industry back to 1998 levels – a 66 per cent fall from pre-crisis traffic, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata). In terms of passenger revenue, global airlines ended 2020 at 1993 levels.

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