The boss of Australian airline Qantas believes “governments are going to insist” on vaccines for international travellers.
Covid-19 vaccines are seen as crucial to reviving an industry that saw worldwide passenger numbers fall 75.6% last year.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said many governments are talking about vaccination as “a condition of entry”.
Even if they are not, he thinks the airline should enforce its own policy.
That would justify changing the terms and conditions on which tickets are booked, he told the BBC.
Passengers would be willing to accept the change, he claimed.
“The vast majority of our customers think this is a great idea – 90% of people that we’ve surveyed think it should be a requirement for people to be vaccinated to travel internationally,” Joyce said.
Even with vaccines, hee cautioned that “once we open up our international borders, we’re going to have the virus circulating”.
“And that’s going to be a big change for a lot of Australia, to find that acceptable,” he said. “We need people to understand they can’t have zero risk with this virus. We manage risk in so many different other ways for other parts of life.”
Qantas last month pushed back the date at which it expects its international flights to resume from July to the end of October – the point when the Australian government hopes to have vaccinated all adults and the date for which the airline is now selling international tickets.
“The number one flight by a significant amount is Perth to London non-stop,” Joyce revealed.
The demand for the ultra-long haul flights is “a good indication” that after pandemic passengers will try to avoid connections in airports filled with other people.
That desire to travel direct means “the business case is probably going to be stronger” for Qantas’s ‘Project Sunrise’ likely to eventually involve direct flights “from Sydney and Melbourne non-stop into Europe and non-stop to the east coast of the United States”, he said.
Tests have already taken place but the overall launch has been delayed, and is now not expected until 2024.
World Health Organisation director of digital health and innovation, Bernardo Mariano, told the BBC: “We don’t approve the fact that a vaccinations passport should be a condition for travel.”
He added that a unified approach from governments would be needed to make such a change work regardless of what the private sector wanted.
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