Australia’s flagship airline Qantas on Wednesday said it would require all front line employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within three months.
The Qantas Group, which owns Qantas and budget airline Jetstar, said in a statement that cabin crew, pilots and airport workers needed to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15.
It said the remainder of its employees would have until March 31, 2022 to be fully jabbed.
The company said there would be exceptions for those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, but those cases were expected to be rare.
“One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day.
“Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important and I think it’s the kind of safety leadership people will expect from us.
“It’s clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again,” Qantas Group head, Alan Joyce, said as he announced the policy.
Qantas said the decision was made following consultation with employees including a large-scale survey seeking their views on vaccination.
“We understand there will be a very small number of people who decide not to get the vaccine, and that’s their right, but it’s our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our employees and for our customers,” Joyce said.
The airline previously said passengers would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, once options became widely available, to travel on international flights and promised to reward jabbed travellers.
Autralia’s international borders had been closed to all but residents and citizens, with a few exceptions, since March 2020.
Inter-state borders have also been shut at a moment’s notice multiple times during the pandemic, crippling travel demand.
Qantas at the beginning of the month announced it would stand down around 2,500 frontline Qantas and Jetstar employees for an estimated two months in response to ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks, though it added that “no job losses” were expected.
So far, about 27 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated, and almost half of over-16s have had at least one jab.