Vaccination passports and a ban on unjabbed flyers will be part of the domestic travel experience as Australia steps out of the shadow of Covid-19, and airlines are gearing up for what could be a contentious 'new normal'.
Some of the strict measures which will increasingly apply to overseas travel are set to ripple down to flights between states and even within states.
Although New South Wales will permit international travel from November 1, travel throughout the state – such as between greater Sydney and regional NSW – will be restricted to people who are fully-vaccinated or hold a medical exemption, while the unvaxxed will have to be content with holidaying in their local government area.
Even when Queensland reaches its own 90% vaccination milestone in early 2022, the state's domestic and international borders will reopen in quarantine-free mode only for fully-vaccinated visitors.
Not jabbed? "You will need to meet the relevant requirements for entry and will be required to undertake a period of quarantine," the government's Covid roadmap states.
Industry body Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ) – which represents Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin, Rex and Air New Zealand – says "other states and territories are expected to introduce similar requirements as they reopen."
Working with airports, the group has developed guidelines "to help travellers know what to expect as states and territories prepare to open their borders."
This includes the possibility of would-be travellers being asked to sign in using a QR code and, in states that require it, confirm their vaccination status at check-in desks and airport lounges.
Call for national standards
"We do ask that people take the time to familiarise themselves with the requirements based on where they are travelling, and where relevant, have proof of vaccination or a medical exemption on hand," explains A4ANZ CEO Alison Roberts.
"Given different vaccination rates and levels of community transmission around Australia, we know that conditions will phase in and out at different times in different parts of the country."
Roberts' aim is to have state and territory governments "align their requirements as much as possible to avoid a patchwork of rules nationwide that make it hard for customers to follow."
“Australia is on track to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, so it's likely that many of the restrictions that will be applied over the next few months will eventually phase out."
Only last month, Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka presciently remarked that she expected vaccination to be mandatory for some interstate travel as states exit lockdown and reopen their borders.
"That's my expectation – it's not been mandated yet by the Government, but I would expect that there will be some constraints with respect to first movements as borders come down," Hrdlicka told a Trans-Tasman Business Circle event on September 17, forecasting that for Virgin's domestic travellers "in November and December (there) will need to be verification of vaccination."
While there remains no national Australia-wide QR code system, vaccination certificates issued through Medicare can be downloaded and printed, viewed through the Medicare app and added to smartphone wallets.
The government this week made available an internationally-recognised vaccination certificate in readiness for the return of overseas travel, while Qantas is putting the finishing touches on its Travel Pass app.