Qantas is changing its stance when it comes to requiring vaccination for international travel, as the airline had one of the strictest policies up until this point.
Qantas changes vaccination policy for travelers
While we’ve seen lots of countries require travelers to be vaccinated, we haven’t seen many airlines introduce a similar requirement. One exception was Qantas — Australia’s largest carrier has required international travelers to be fully vaccinated, regardless of the vaccination requirement at a destination.
This is something that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was vocal about in late 2020, arguing that requiring vaccination is the right thing to do to protect everyone. As he explained at the time:
“We are looking at changing our terms & conditions to say for international travelers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft. Whether you need that domestically, we’ll have to see what happens with COVID-19 and the market, but certainly for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity.”
It looks like Qantas has now had a change of heart, or is evolving with the times, depending on how you look at it. As of Tuesday, July 19, 2022, Qantas will no longer require international travelers to be vaccinated. Destinations may still require vaccination, but it’s possible to fly the airline internationally without being vaccinated.
Why is Qantas changing its vaccination policy now?
What’s causing Qantas to change its stance on requiring vaccination for international travel? Well, it probably reflects the overall pandemic situation in Australia.
Australia has gone from one extreme to the other when it comes to pandemic restrictions. For the first 18 months of the pandemic, Australia’s borders were almost completely shut, and Australians weren’t even allowed to leave the country, aside from a limited set of exceptions. This was part of Australia’s zero tolerance approach toward coronavirus.
That has evolved quickly, though. In late 2021, Australia started allowing citizens to leave the country, and then in February 2022, Australia reopened to vaccinated visitors. As of this past week, Australia eliminated all pandemic related travel restrictions, meaning there’s no longer a need to be vaccinated or tested in order to visit Australia. Entering the country is now exactly as it was pre-pandemic.
Australia is at this point no longer taking a zero tolerance approach toward coronavirus, and at the moment Australia has a higher average coronavirus death rate per capita than the United States.
So while Qantas could have stuck with its policy, odds are that it wouldn’t have been good for business. Justified or not, a majority of people have reached the “it’s time to move on” stage of the pandemic, and that’s reflected in everyday life.
The other issue involves boosters. You have the greatest protection from serious illness related to coronavirus if you’re boosted, but countries all have different policies regarding who should get boosted and how often. There are different levels of protection for those who got vaccinated 18 months ago, and those who have had two boosters since then, so what should a vaccine policy for international travel really be based on?
As of July 19, 2022, Qantas will no longer require international travelers to be vaccinated. This policy was unrelated to government restrictions, and was initially implemented because Qantas management thought it was the right thing to do. However, with Australia’s government having eliminated most pandemic related travel restrictions, it’s probably pretty hard for Qantas to continue justifying this policy.