Quantas Airlines and Korea Air Recommend Covid-19 Vaccine ‘Passport’ for International Flights
International air travel could come booming back next year but with a new rule: Travelers to certain countries must be vaccinated against the coronavirus before they can fly.
Encouraging news about vaccine development has given airlines and nations hope they may soon be able to revive suspended flight routes and dust off lucrative tourism plans. But countries in Asia and the Pacific, in particular, are determined not to let their hard-won gains against the virus evaporate.
In Australia, the boss of Qantas, the country’s largest airline, said that once a virus vaccine becomes widely available, his carrier will likely require passengers use it before they can travel abroad or land in Australia.
Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said he’s been talking to his counterparts at other airlines around the world about the possibility of a “vaccination passport” for international travelers.
“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers, that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft,” Joyce told Australia’s Network Nine television.
He said they were looking at ways to electronically verify that people have the necessary vaccine for their intended destination, a difficult task.
“But certainly for international visitors coming out, and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity,” he said.
South Korea’s largest airline has a similar message. Jill Chung, a spokesperson for Korean Air, said Tuesday there’s a real possibility that airlines will require that passengers be vaccinated. She said that’s because governments are likely to require vaccinations as a condition for lifting quarantine requirements for new arrivals.
While Korean Air is reviewing several possibilities for screening, any change by the company or other airlines would be the result of coordination with governments, Chung said.
“This is not something for airlines to independently decide,” she said.
Air New Zealand echoed Chung’s position.
“Ultimately, it’s up to governments to determine when and how it is safe to reopen borders and we continue to work closely with authorities on this,” Air New Zealand said in a statement.
Australia, South Korea and New Zealand have all managed to minimize the spread of the virus. They are seen internationally as success stories, and a big part of their containment effort has focused on keeping infectious people out.
Australia has imposed some of the most severe border restrictions in the world since the pandemic began. It has closed its borders to most international visitors and allowed its own citizens to travel internationally only under special circumstances. New Zealand has also closed its borders, while South Korea has imposed a two-week quarantine on all arriving passengers.