Singapore Airlines has chastised Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth airports for not requiring immunizations for their employees.
Louis Arul, regional vice president of the business, complimented Sydney and Adelaide airports for implementing the regulation, but warned that the lack of a consistent, statewide strategy might stymie Australia’s return to international travel.
While both Qantas and Virgin have enforced the vaccine for their employees, there are many frontline aviation workers in airports who are not employed by airlines, such as security guards, cleaners, and border officers.
Noting that Singapore has already mandated vaccines for its employees, Arul told the AFR, “We’re confident we’ll be ready when the border reopens, but we don’t know at this moment if all Australian airports we fly into will soon require required staff immunization.”
It comes as Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland continue to combat COVID-19 Delta outbreaks, which are thought to have been caused by an uninfected Sydney Airport transport driver who contracted the virus from an international aircrew member.
Arul believes that consulting with industry and reaching national consensus on frontline staff immunization is critical to going forward and reopening international borders.
“The last thing you want to do is open up just to have to close it down again,” he explained.
The demand comes after the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) cautioned last week that protocols to enable for a large-scale restart of commercial travel are still lacking, with airports in particular being underprepared.
BARA reported “limited engagement” with governments to alter COVID mitigation measures to accommodate more than a handful of arrivals at airports.
“The vast and complex processes already in place at airports allow only a relatively modest number of international passengers and flights each day,” according to the group in a statement.
“Under current operating conditions, any significant expansion in international flights and passengers is not possible.”
Both warnings come as the government announced that Australia’s overseas travel restriction might be lifted as soon as November, depending on vaccination rates and the introduction of a vaccine passport that is fit for purpose.
According to sources, Australia’s vaccine passports for overseas travel would be available in both digital and physical formats.
In addition, the government is apparently planning to link a person’s vaccination status to their passport chips, and a plan to create a vaccine certificate for travel via QR code is also in the works.
The federal government has prohibited Australian citizens and residents from leaving the nation unless they have a legitimate exception from March 2020. The prohibition had earlier been extended until December 17th.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has long stated that Australia’s international borders will reopen once the country achieves an adult vaccination rate of 80%, and that travel outside will be restricted to vaccinated travelers.
Currently, slightly more than 40% of Australia’s adult population is completely vaccinated.
On Wednesday, Trade Minister Dan Tehan stated that limitations on outbound international travel would be relaxed after vaccination targets were fulfilled, naming New Zealand, the Pacific, and Singapore as among the first places to be permitted for travelers.
“The national plan makes it very clear that if we reach that 80% point, we will be able to put in place procedures for outgoing travel — travel by Australians overseas – as well as inbound travel,” Minister Tehan said.