No jab, no fly – that’s the message from Qantas boss Alan Joyce, who says proof of a coronavirus vaccination will be required before anyone can take a seat on an international flight once they resume.
Mr Joyce said a vaccine would be “a necessity”, once they became available.
“I think that’s going to be a common thing, talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe,” he told the Nine Network on Monday night.
Qantas’ international flights have been all but grounded since earlier in 2020, when Australia closed its borders to overseas travellers.
Mr Joyce has previously said a vaccine is key to the Australia’s national carrier resuming flights to destinations such as the US and Britain, where the pandemic is taking an increasing toll.
In October, he told the Qantas annual meeting that international flights, except for New Zealand, were unlikely to resume until the middle of 2021. Even that was dependent on the success of COVID vaccine trials, he said.
Qantas has lost $2 billion because of border restrictions introduced during the pandemic.
On Monday, on A Current Affair, Mr Joyce said Qantas was looking at how it might change its terms and conditions for international travellers.
“We will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft … for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity,” he said.
He has talked to other international airlines about the possibility of a “vaccination passport” for overseas travellers.
“What we are looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you are travelling to,” he said.
Creating such a document for inbound and outbound travellers required thought and “a lot of logistics” and might require government intervention.
Federal Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said the proposal was a no-brainer.
“I would expect anyone coming into Australia is going to have to demonstrate to us that they are COVID safe,” he told Nine’s Today Show on Tuesday.
“Why wouldn’t they (Qantas) want to make sure.
“I would like to know the passenger next to me was vaccinated.”
Vaccines are already compulsory as part of visa conditions for entry to some nations or for returning Australians – such as proof of yellow fever vaccination if returning from high-risk countries in Africa and the Caribbean.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison caused a storm about a COVID jab in August when he said he would “expect it to be as mandatory as you can possibly make it”. He had to walk back those comments within hours.
“There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis,” he said.
The outlook for coronavirus vaccines has got much more positive in recent weeks.
British company AstraZeneca announced on Tuesday that its joint venture vaccine with Oxford University had been found to be 70 per cent effective in trials. With different doses, it could be about 90 per cent effective, the company said.
Millions of the doses of the vaccine could be rolled out as soon as Christmas. Australia already has an order for 30 million, with 3.8 million potentially delivered in early 2021.
The Oxford jab is the third after US companies Pfizer and Moderna to excel in trials as the world appears on the cusp of having numerous vaccine solutions.
But unlike the previous two vaccines, which require extreme cold temperatures for transport – which is expensive and difficult – Oxford’s version can be delivered in normal fridge conditions.
That would make it easier and cheaper to distribute around the globe, particularly to third-world countries.