Rex Vaccinates Its Crews To Protect Vulnerable Communities

Regional Express (Rex) has become the most recent Australian airline to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations among its workforce. Rex confirmed the decision on Monday. It follows similar rulings from competitors Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Alliance Airlines.

Rex has decided to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations among its workforce. Photo: Rex

Rex highlights to need to safeguard remote & vulnerable communities

While airlines everywhere have good reasons for mandating workforce vaccinations, Rex had extra factors to consider. Rex’s turboprops fly into some very remote communities, often with a significant local indigenous population. Australia’s indigenous people have long been highly vulnerable to imported viruses, and COVID-19 is no exception. Rex doesn’t want to import the virus into these communities inadvertently.

“We operate to about 65 destinations all around Australia, some of the most remote places we have in Australia, and most of these places don’t have COVID within their community,” Rex’s Deputy Chairman John Sharp told Australia Talks on Thursday.

“But the risk is someone flying in on a plane, like a Rex plane, could bring it into the community. Our responsibility is to the communities, and the broader community, to ensure we don’t bring COVID into those communities through our own crews.”

Rex has set a November 1 deadline for COVID-19 employee vaccinations. Photo: Rex

Rex sets November 1 deadline for vaccinations

Rex now requires all of its frontline employees (including pilots, flight attendants, and check-in employees) to be fully vaccinated by November 1. Rex was slower out of the gates than its local rival airlines in making a vaccination decision, but it is imposing a shorter timeframe for its employees to get double jabbed.

That short timeframe now allows Rex to brag it will be the first Australian airline to have all frontline employees fully vaccinated. Rex says its stood down frontline employees will need to be fully vaccinated when they return to work, if that return date is after November 1.

Rex says 59% of its 1,400 strong workforce are already fully vaccinated and expects a total vaccination rate of 90% by the November 1 deadline. Only about 2% of Rex’s workforce is opposed to vaccinations. Mr Sharp says among that number are pregnant employees and people who’ve previously had strokes who have health concerns about vaccinations. Rex’s final policy to cater for such cases is yet to be finalized.

“Consultations will continue as the new policy is formulated,” a statement from Rex says.

Rex’s Deputy Chairman John Sharp. Photo: Getty Images

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Rex says vaccination policy benefits everybody

While Rex has a particular eye on keeping people in remote communities safe, John Sharp says there are broader concerns as well.

“We also have a responsibility to our passengers,” he said on Thursday.” We don’t want to expose our passengers to any greater risks than necessary. By having fully vaccinated crews onboard our aircraft and all our customer-facing areas, we reduce that risk.

“It’s also good for our staff because it means they are working in an environment where their fellow staff members are fully vaccinated, and that reduces the risk to them.”

Meanwhile, like its local competitors, Rex is struggling with movement restrictions and closed borders. But with COVID-19 vaccination rates among the broader Australian population now rising strongly, Rex’s Deputy Chairman is confident business will bounce back sooner rather than later.

“We believe there is a substantial amount of demand waiting for the green light. People want to travel for Christmas, they’ve got pent-up business requirements, they’ve been waiting for the green light to travel.”