It appears Qantas is following through on its promise to require international travellers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with the airline already trialling new vaccine passports.
This week, Qantas and Jetstar announced it was planning to resume international flights to “most destinations” from October 31, 2021.
The date coincides with the goal of the Federal government to have the majority of Australia’s adult population vaccinated against COVID-19 by October this year.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce sparked controversy in November last year when he said a coronavirus vaccination would be a condition of travel for those wishing to go overseas with the airline.
“For international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft,’’ he said.
“Certainly, for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country we think that’s a necessity.”
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Now the airline seems to be taking the next step in that plan by deciding how they will verify the vaccination status of passengers.
Passengers will likely be required to use a “vaccination passport” to prove they have receive the jab.
“Qantas is assessing the use of digital health pass apps to help support the resumption of COVID-safe international travel,” the airline said in a statement.
“The CommonPass and IATA Travel Pass smartphone apps are being trialled on the airline’s international repatriation flights.”
So far, these apps have only been tested in crew members but from next week they will be tested out on returning Aussies, according to 7 News.
Both the CommonPass and IATA apps would provide an easily accessible document of your COVID-19 status, including whether you have been vaccinated and any record of negative coronavirus tests if required to enter a country.
“CommonPass lets individuals access their lab results and vaccination records, and consent to have that information used to validate their COVID status without revealing any other underlying personal health information,” the CommonPass website states.
“Lab results and vaccination records can be accessed through existing health data systems, national or local registries or personal digital health records.”
The platform would also be able to assess whether a person’s test results or vaccination records come from a trusted source and satisfy the COVID-19 health requirements of the country they are travelling to.
Qantas Chief Financial Officer Vanessa Hudson said Qantas was still in the early ages of trialling the apps, adding they would likely be very similar to the Service NSW app used in NSW.
“It will be in an app on your phone, that you can present along with your travel documentation that shows proof of vaccination, and also if you had required to have a COVID test before travel, the results of that test,” she told reporters.
“I think our focus is making sure that it’s as seamless for customers as possible, but also, very easy and seamless for our frontline people to use as well. It creates just a fast process at that point of check-in.”
Most of Qantas’ international routes are expected to resume on October 31, including flights to London, Singapore and Los Angeles.
Three routes – New York, Santiago and Osaka – will return at a later date, with Qantas passengers able to fly to those cities with codeshare partners in the meantime.
Qantas said its current international flying capacity was around 8 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels, which currently consists of repatriation flights and services to New Zealand.
The company does not expect international flights to see much of an increase in the second half of 2021, and its international network is not expected to be fully restored until 2024 at least.
However, it is looking towards a “significant increase” in flights to New Zealand from July 1 as Australia maintains its travel bubble with its trans-Tasman neighbour.
Mr Joyce said Qantas was talking with the federal government about its plans to officially reopen Australia’s borders.
“The federal government wants to see a few things happening before they can make a firm date happen with international borders, like the transmission effectiveness of the vaccine,” he said.
“We are confident there should be a good case for reopening in October, (when) the population will be fully vaccinated.”