A call by Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce for international passengers to produce a vaccination certificate before flying into and from Australia has been given a cool reception by airline body, IATA.
"We cannot wait for the vaccine to be deployed, otherwise we'll all be dead,” said IATA director-general Alexandre de Juniac, who predicts airlines will suffer a net loss of US$118.5 billion for 2020.
“For the moment, we have had this very good news on the vaccine, but it is a bit premature to say when and how the vaccination progress will be spread all around the world and the whole world will be done," de Juniac said.
Joyce said Qantas is looking at the potential for passengers to have a vaccination passport that "certifies what the vaccine is and whether it's acceptable to the country you're traveling to”.
Qantas is the first airline to indicate that Covid-19 vaccinations would be required before travel although Joyce indicated that a similar approach was being assessed by other airlines.
"I think it will be a common theme, talking to my colleagues in other airlines across the world," he said.
Qantas has some support from the Australian government, which says while vaccinations won’t be mandatory, "there may, however, be circumstances where the Australian government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination”.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said international visitors to Australia could be faced with a stark choice once a vaccine is available: “Be vaccinated or face 14 days in quarantine.”
IATA said at its annual meeting this week that a digital health pass, which could include vaccine information, is the key to opening borders.
De Juniac said the IATA digital travel pass or smartphone app was part of the solution and said the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble would be a litmus test.
“Even if the vaccines prove viable next year, it would take the global aviation industry at least four years to recover from the swathe of travel bans and restrictions imposed around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
While Australia’s state borders are opening up to domestic travellers, international travel from Australia still appears to be some time away.
"If Australia's going to open up to Australia, the last thing we want to see, to put Australians at risk, is for a whole scale opening of our international borders — that would be catastrophic,” said Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, in welcoming her government’s decision to open up the border to visitors from Victoria on 1 December.
Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner told ABC Radio Brisbane the business received more domestic online bookings yesterday than on any other day in their history.
"It happens immediately, people will travel immediately, they're desperate to see friends, relatives," he said.