AviationAirlines, trade organisations and destinations debate on what and how the best vaccination policy for travellers might be.

Covid-19 vaccines for flying: To wait or not to wait?

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Airline bodies are against mandating vaccines because it could further deter people from travelling and bog down efforts to reboot the already floundering aviation industry. Photo Credit: Getty Images/nevodka

After what’s felt like the longest nine months of our lives, Covid-19 vaccines have finally become a reality, promising a long-awaited deliverance from lockdowns and generalised paranoia about being around other humans.

Besides making grocery store visits less stressful, vaccinations have the potential to inspire a new degree of confidence among travellers and help to reboot the industry.

But, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved and are being administered to select persons, it’s bound to be a long while before inoculations are available to most of the public.

Is it pragmatic or fair, then, to suggest—as Qantas’ CEO Alan Joyce did last month—to require that airline passengers be vaccinated before being allowed to fly?

Airlines, trade organisations and destinations are beginning to weigh in on what the best vaccination policy (if any) for travellers might be, and how requirements would need to be standardised in order to be effective. Some think it’s still best to rely on testing measures to screen out infected passengers, sometimes in combination with quarantine.

Proponents of the idea believe that requiring inoculations will convince now-wary travellers to start flying again by guaranteeing a new level of personal safety. Opponents argue that making Covid vaccinations mandatory when there’s no report on when they’ll become widely available would further cripple the air travel industry, which may not survive the wait.

Fodor’s reported that American Airlines has already opined that it’s still too early to consider vaccine policies. German carrier Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Brussels Airlines, won’t be requiring Covid vaccinations, but are testing feasibility through trial flights that allow only passengers who’ve tested negative to board.

Korean Air said it thinks airlines may require vaccinations, but only under the guidance of governments. Air New Zealand agreed, writing in an email that “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."

The trade group Airports Council International (ACI), which represents airports worldwide, is against airlines mandating vaccines because it could further deter people from travelling and bog down efforts to reboot the already floundering aviation industry. ACI world director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said, “The industry cannot wait till vaccination becomes available worldwide. During the transition period, tests and vaccines together will play a key role [in] the industry recovery.”

Another major trade organisation, International Air Transport Association (IATA), hasn’t taken a stance on vaccination requirements, but continues to recommend testing—multiple times, if called for—as the best option to prevent viral transmission and safely reopen international borders.

A lack of vaccine accessibility wouldn’t be the only impediment to realising this notion. While this wouldn’t be the first vaccine to be mandated for travellers (e.g. passengers must show proof of vaccination against yellow fever to fly to certain African countries), it could potentially run up against resistance.

It’s likely that some people will reject the vaccine due to religious reasons, allergies or other potential medical complications. Also, the anti-vaxxer movement has been growing in recent years, drawing followers through social media channels, and sometimes spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories. Some Americans don’t quite trust the Covid vaccine because of its seemingly rushed development and release.

A recent study by MMGY Global showed that, while half of respondents were willing to get vaccinated as soon as possible, 40% preferred to wait a few months to see if it’s effective and nine percent would decline altogether.

Source: Travel Pulse

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