Unvaccinated travellers planning to fly to or from Australia will not be able to do so via Qantas, the country's national airline.
Only passengers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to fly internationally with Qantas when the airline resumes operations at the end of the year.
“Qantas will have a policy that internationally we will only be carrying vaccinated passengers,” said Alan Joyce, chief executive at Qantas, speaking to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle in the first in a series on vaccinations.
“We think that's going to be one of the requirements to show that you're flying safe,” he said.
Qantas is the first major airline to announce such a move, although several airlines already mandate that crew must be fully vaccinated.
The airline is encouraging Australians to get their Covid-19 vaccination by offering a range of rewards for passengers who are fully jabbed.
Up for grabs are flight discounts, frequent flyer points, free upgrades and vouchers for future travel. There will also be 10 mega-prizes of free flights for the whole family for a year.
The airline is banking on high levels of vaccinations easing the strain on the aviation industry, which has been crushed since the onset of the global pandemic. It has also mandated that all staff must be fully vaccinated.
A deadline of November 15 has been set for Qantas flight crew teams to receive both doses of a Covid-19 jab. Remaining employees, except those who have a medical exemption, have a little longer to get vaccinated, but must be fully inoculated before March 31.
Covid-safe flights by Christmas
In August, Qantas announced plans to restart flights to Covid-safe destinations by Christmas. Initial international flights will be to destinations that are on par with Australia's vaccination rates, which are set to be above 80 per cent by the end of the year.
The restart plans hinge on the Australian government's policy on opening international borders, said Joyce.
“The plan says that at 80 per cent [vaccination rate] we should be opening up the national borders, and we also should be starting to open up internationally.”
“We will open up to markets that have the same level of vaccinations at that stage. And that should be markets like the UK, North America … Japan, Singapore, Fiji.”
Vaccination rates in Australia are currently at less than 32 per cent, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, meaning the country is behind most major countries in terms of how quickly it is rolling out Covid-19 jabs.
Having grounded the majority of its international fleet at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Qantas is eyeing up its return to the skies, propelled by vaccination rates.
The airline is also banking on the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand restarting sooner rather than later, with flights for these destinations on sale from mid-December 2021.