Air New Zealand Sets Vaccination Requirement For International Passengers

One of the first clear policies of its kind, Air New Zealand, will require its international passengers to be vaccinated in order to fly. Announced on October 3rd, this requirement will apply to all passengers aged 18 and older arriving or departing the country on Air New Zealand aircraft, coming into effect from February 1st, 2022.

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The policy only applies to international travel with the airline. Photo: Boeing

The first of its kind?

We’ve heard of countries waiving testing and/or quarantine requirements for the vaccinated, as well as airlines requiring vaccinations for their employees. However, Air New Zealand’s policy takes things a step further with a requirement for its own passengers to be vaccinated. Qantas has noted that it will have a similar policy in place when it resumes international travel but has yet to offer a clear set of rules in the way that Air New Zealand has.

“Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is the new reality of international travel –many of the destinations Kiwis want to visit are already closed to unvaccinated visitors. The quicker we get vaccinated, the sooner we can fly Kiwis to places like New York, Vancouver and Narita.” – Greg Foran, Chief Executive Officer, Air New Zealand, via statement.

The airline states that from February 1st, 2022, all customers traveling anywhere on its international network will be required to be fully vaccinated. In the carrier’s “Vaccination FAQs document,” the following details are included in the policy:

  • All customers aged 18 and over are required to be vaccinated from February 1st, 2022.
  • Customers arriving or departing New Zealand on an Air New Zealand aircraft.
  • Customers with medical reasons preventing them from being vaccinated will be exempt. More information on exemptions will be available in due course.
  • This requirement will not apply to Air New Zealand domestic services at this time.

The airline adds that customers who are not vaccinated “will be required to present proof that vaccination was not a viable option for them for medical reasons.”

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The policy won’t come into effect for another four months. Photo: Getty Images

Public reaction

“As with anything, there will be some that disagree,” states airline CEO Greg Foran, adding, “we know this is the right thing to do to protect our people, our customers, and the wider New Zealand community. We’ll spend the next few months making sure we get this right…[giving] anyone wanting to travel from next year plenty of time to get their vaccination.”

We don’t need to look any further than social media sites to gauge public response to the airline’s policy. As might be expected, the reaction is a mix of both support and outrage, with some users proclaiming an end to their relationship with Air New Zealand.

Others, of course, are supportive and defend the airline’s tough stance. Some have noted that this could be just the start as other airlines weigh similar requirements for passengers.

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Traveling to or from New Zealand?

For those flying to or from New Zealand, here’s what you need to know:

  • The first thing to know is that at the time of this article’s publication, New Zealand is still closed off to tourism and leisure travel. This may change in the future- perhaps around the same time Air New Zealand’s vaccination policy comes into effect.
  • At this time, this applies to international Air New Zealand flights only. However, in the world of codeshares and alliances, you may have an Air New Zealand-operated flight without knowing it. The airline has partnerships with Air China, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, and Cathay Pacific – not to mention its broader membership in the Star Alliance. Concerned travelers should review their itineraries or check with travel agents.
  • As previously stated, the policy doesn’t come into effect for another four months. This should give any current ticket holders a chance to get the jab if they have flights in the far future.
  • The airline is currently working with the New Zealand Government on a list of approved vaccines. “We’ll need to make sure we carry customers with a vaccine that is approved by them.”
  • For those who may be traveling with the airline after the policy is in effect, but will not be getting vaccinated, the airline says that it’s currently “reviewing its Customer Flexibility Policy to determine whether any changes are required due to the implementation of this requirement, more information will be shared in due course.”
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From specific booking/refund policies to a list of approved vaccines, there is still more work needed to solidify this new policy. Photo: Masakatsu Ukon via Wikimedia Commons 

The obvious question of the day: What do you think of Air New Zealand’s vaccination requirement for passengers? And could this indeed be just the start of a trend among major airlines? Let us know your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment.

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