Virgin Australia is the latest Australian airline to mandate employee COVID-19 vaccinations. The airline confirmed the decision on Thursday. Frontline and airport-based team members will be required to be vaccinated by 15 November 2021. All other office-based team members must get vaccinated by 31 March 2022.
“This is the right policy for the extraordinary times we live in and is a decision that will keep our people safe,” said Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka. “We know this will be difficult for some of our people, but we have a responsibility to do our part to protect our people, the community, and our way of life. Vaccination is the way to do that.”
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Virgin Australia decision follows similar mandates from Qantas & Alliance Airlines
Saying exemptions for employees with medical contraindications or other reasons that can be substantiated will be considered on a case-by-case basis, Ms Hrdlicka said the mandate followed a two-week consultation period with unions, employees, contractors, and suppliers.
“We have listened to all the feedback we have received, either directly or through unions, and made some changes to our proposed policy based on this feedback,” the Virgin Australia boss said.
Virgin Australia’s vaccination decision follows Alliance Airlines and Qantas making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for their employees and setting deadlines. Simple Flying understands Regional Express (Rex) is close to making a vaccination decision after talking to their employees, unions, and other stakeholders.
A carrot & stick approach at Virgin Australia
Virgin Australia expects its employees to take all reasonable steps to be vaccinated by the deadline. But following the consultations, the airline is throwing a few sweeteners to encourage people along.
Virgin Australia will reimburse out-of-pocket expenses of up to AU$100 for a visit to the doctor to discuss any vaccination concerns. The airline will also make changes to leave allowances in relation to vaccinations, giving up to two days of special circumstances leave if an employee feels unwell after being vaccinated, where that employee has two days or less of personal leave left.
Noting the barriers to booking vaccination appointments in some areas, short extensions may be available in certain circumstances where the availability of vaccines has been limited for individuals based on area and eligibility. Virgin Australia will also set down a clear process for those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical or other reasons. There will also be clarification of the vaccination verification process.
As of September 16, 44.7% of the Australian population aged 16 years and over are fully vaccinated. 69.8% of all Australian’s aged over 16 years have had a least one dose.
Virgin Australia rolls out sweeteners to get its frequent flyers back on board
The ruling comes as Virgin Australia gears up for improved flying conditions later this year as local vaccination targets are met and internal and international borders start to re-open. Virgin Australia is expecting a significant increase in demand and capacity by the end of the year. To that end, the airline released a package of enticements on Friday, targeting its Velocity frequent flyer members.
That includes status extensions for top-tier frequent flyers, double status offers, and in news to cheer many (including this writer), the imminent return of international flight redemption bookings. With many having lots of points in the Velocity bank and international travel beckoning, it is the best news out of Virgin Australia this year.
“Loyalty works both ways, and this is our way of reaffirming our commitment to Velocity members who have remained loyal to us. We want to thank them for their ongoing support, and we look forward to welcoming them onboard soon,” said Acting Velocity Frequent Flyer CEO David Marr on Friday.
Jayne Hrdlicka said that when passengers board Virgin Australia’s Boeings, they can be assured that all Virgin Australia employees they interact with will be vaccinated. In addition to minimizing risk, the Virgin Australia CEO says Thursday’s COVID-19 vaccination decision will increase passenger confidence.