Qantas, the largest domestic and international airline carrier in the country, will mandate vaccinations for all staff if they want to continue in their roles.
Frontline workers, who are defined as cabin crew, pilots and airport workers, will need to be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021 and the remainder of employees by 31 March 2022.
A statement from the airline said there would be exemptions for employees who have a documented medical reason why they are unable to be vaccinated, but expected such instances to be very rare.
Prior to the pandemic, Qantas employed 30,000 workers, but at least 6,000 positions have been permanently terminated since that time due to COVID losses, with thousands more temporarily stood down without pay.
In early August 2021, the airline reported to be operating at less than 40 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic capacity, with all international flights halted.
The air carrier announced its vaccination policy following the results of a survey it conducted that received 12,000 responses from staff of Qantas and its subsidiary, Jetstar. Around three-quarters of the respondents said vaccination should be required of all employees, and said they would be concerned about working around those who were unvaccinated.
Close to 90 per cent said they had either already had the jab or intended to. Of those, 77 per cent have had at least one dose, 60 per cent are fully vaccinated, and 12 per cent are booked or planning to book appointments.
Only 4 per cent responded that they were unwilling to get vaccinated, while 7 per cent were unsure or declined to specify.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the policy was intended not only to protect the Qantas workforce, but also to safeguard the communities they fly to.
“One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day. Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important, and I think it’s the kind of safety leadership people would expect from us,” Mr Joyce said.
“We understand there will be a very small number of people who decide not to get the vaccine, and that’s their right, but it’s our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our employees and for our customers.”
This was one of the largest responses to any survey Qantas had conducted, according to Mr Joyce. With 12,000 respondents, it’s also one of the biggest surveys on the matter conducted within Australia.
Qantas reported that a separate survey of more than 1,000 of its customers showed 92 per cent expect Qantas crew to be vaccinated.
Details of the policy will be fleshed out over the coming weeks, following further consultation with employees, their health and safety representatives and unions.