Qantas CEO Alan Joyce struck a nerve last month when he suggested travelers would need proof of a COVID-19 vaccination before they boarded a Qantas international flight. Some people thought the idea was sensible. Others thought it an infringement on their free choice. But Mr Joyce thinks he’s on a winner here. On Thursday, he doubled down on the idea.
“Our position on this is clear. We have a duty of care to our people and our passengers, and once a safe and effective vaccine becomes readily available, it will be a requirement for travel on our international services,” said Mr Joyce in comments to the media on Thursday.
“We will always put safety ahead of popularity.”
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Qantas boss doubles down on vaccination requirement
The Qantas boss is confident most travelers support the proposal. He cited a recent Qantas customer survey that found 87% of respondents said they would take a COVID-19 vaccine if it was required to travel internationally. In addition, 85% of respondents thought a COVID-19 vaccine should be required for travel to at least some countries.
Like many people, Alan Joyce doesn’t think any vaccine should be mandatory. But just as those people have choices, so does Qantas. In this case, Qantas will choose not to carry them.
“I acknowledge some people are opposed to vaccines in-principle. We respect that. But in return, we ask everyone who travels on Qantas and Jetstar to respect our safety protocols – which will include a COVID vaccine for international flights.”
Right now, it’s a bit of an academic argument. There’s no vaccine – yet, and there are very few Qantas international services. Despite the prospects of a COVID-19 vaccine brightening by the day, Alan Joyce maintains his mid-2021 timeline for Qantas international services resuming.
Even then, it won’t be to all the usual destinations. Mr Joyce has previously expressed pessimism about services to Europe or the United States resuming before the end of 2021.
By flagging the idea now, Alan Joyce gives his regular passengers time to let the idea sink in, get organized, get vaccinated, and then, when international services resume, board one of his planes with minimal hassle.
A contemporary take on an old requirement
Mr Joyce’s vaccination stance isn’t new. In fact, it’s a bit of a throwback to not so long ago. Until quite recently, many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, required vaccination certificates for diseases like yellow fever and malaria.
Alan Joyce isn’t suggesting we all start carrying around dogeared pieces of stamped cardboard again. Rather, he wants a globally recognized digital version, like what American Airlines is trialing on their flights to Chile right now.
Under such a scheme, your vaccination status could be verified at check-in. That’s something the World Health Organization is looking at right now. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports Siddhartha Datta, Europe’s WHO program manager, saying;
“We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this COVID-19 response, one of them how we can work with member states toward an e-vaccination certificate.”
But Mr Datta also highlights local laws concerning privacy and data sharing and digital vaccination apps’ inability to work across all jurisdictions. An e-vaccination certificate also requires access to a smartphone, and not all travelers have those.
But at Qantas, Alan Joyce is flat out covering the costs of ramping up parts of his airline while keeping other parts in hibernation. It’s an expensive way to run an airline. He wants international flying back up and running. He wants his passengers to be able to move seamlessly from one country to another. Alan Joyce sees COVID-19 e-vaccination as the fast-track ticket to do that.