Qantas will make vaccination against Covid-19 a mandatory requirement for all employees, in addition to most travellers on overseas routes as international travel resumes across 2022.
Frontline staff on Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar – including cabin crew, pilots and airport workers – will need to be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021.
The rest of the workforce will need to be vaccinated by 31 March 2022, and while Qantas says exemptions will be made "for those who are unable for documented medical reasons to be vaccinated, which is expected to be very rare."
"Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to," said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
"One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day. Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important and I think it’s the kind of safety leadership people would expect from us."
No jab, no job?
The airline says it surveyed 22,000 staff seeking their views on vaccination – and while 89% had already been vaccinated or were planning to be, 4% said they were "unwilling or unable" to get the jab, with 7% undecided or preferring not to say.
However, speaking at a media briefing following this morning's announcement, Joyce said of staff who refuse to be vaccinated "if they're not taking the jab, they're deciding that aviation is not the job for them."
"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."
"If they don't have a medical reason, they just have other objections, we believe the aviation industry probably isn't for them... we have a lot of restrictions (on unvaccinated employees) already in force by state governments, and we think more and more of that is going to occur, and it's also starting to become a standard around the globe."
Joyce added that opportunities for non-vaccinated staff to be redeployed within the airline would be severely limited, given how Qantas has shrunk its workforce in the wake of Covid.
Qantas also notes that in a separate survey of over 1,000 passengers, 92% said they expect Qantas crew to be fully vaccinated.
No jab, no fly...
Joyce also reaffirmed his stance on mandatory vaccination mandatory for passengers on international Qantas and Jetstar flights.
Exceptions would be made for passengers who qualify for a medical exemption, along with some 'travel bubble' countries such as New Zealand, unless those destinations made vaccination a condition of entry.
Joyce said that vaccination was "likely to be a requirement for countries, I think Australia and the UK and the US are examples" for travellers to avoid the quarantine faced by unvaccinated flyers.
However, as both incentive and reward, Qantas will give ten fully vaccinated Australians a free year of unlimited travel on Qantas and Jetstar, covering both domestic and international flights.
The airline plans to launch its 'vaccination contest' within the coming months, with entry open to all Australians who have been fully vaccinated by the end of 2021.
Joyce says each of ten "super-prizes" would offer "unlimited flying for a year" for a family of up to four.
"You could fly to New York every week, to London every other week," he said, with domestic Qantas and Jetstar flights also on offer – although the airline has previously advised that all those free flights will be in economy class, which might weekly trips to New Zealand a little more appealing than New York.
Discounts on regular flight bookings plus free serves of Qantas Points and status credits could also be offered to Australians who are fully vaccinated by the end of 2021.
Joyce also said that runner-up prizes could include 1,000 Qantas Points and "discounts on Qantas and Jetstar fares."
Hotel giant Accor will also chip in with one million of its own loyalty points "worth tens of thousand of dollars in free accommodation", along with free fuel from Qantas partner BP.
The airline will also roll out a 'digital health' smartphone app for international flights, with the ability to securely store and present proof of Covid vaccination as well as the results of pre-departure Covid tests.
Qantas has settled on the Travel Pass platform developed by the International Air Transport Association to spearhead an industry-wide push to streamline a return to the skies for business and leisure travellers – especially as countries begin to insist on vaccination or negative test results for inbound passengers.
It says final development on the so-called 'vaccination passport' is now underway to ensure the Travel Pass app is ready for use on Qantas and Jetstar international flights when they resume.
However, a Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller that the airline is also looking to integrate Travel Pass functionality into the airline's own smartphone app so that passengers would eventually need just the one app.
“We want to get our international flights back in the air and our people back to work and a digital health pass will be a key part of that," said Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully.
“The IATA Travel Pass will allow travellers to have their Covid test results and vaccine information verified securely, which will be their green light to fly internationally with us.”
Many countries already require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result for international travel.
“A digital health pass will connect customers with Covid testing facilities, health authorities and airlines, and ultimately enable the opening of more travel bubbles and borders,” Tully elaborated.
By using the Travel Pass app, passengers will be able to confirm specific 'health requirements' for their flight, including the entry conditions of the country they're travelling to.