The Qantas solution could mean mass travel re-starts

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Yesterday the boss of the Australian airline, Qantas, said that international travellers must have a COVID-19 vaccine to get on a flight.

Will the Qantas idea be the way forward?

Is his solution the way that airlines will restore their passenger numbers, give confidence to passengers and kick-start tourism?

If airlines and destinations follow his advice then travel will not leap forward until sufficient of us have been vaccinated.

From the announcements by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Astra-Zenica announcements it would appear that summer holidays and travel will happen because sufficient dosages should have been administered. It is even possible that Easter breaks will be substantial.

But if airlines demand proof of vaccination then countries do the same.

IATA announced on Monday that it is in the final development phase of the IATA Travel Pass, a digital health pass that will support the safe reopening of borders. Although this has been designed for rapid-testing, converting it into a vaccination record will be comparatively simple. The advantage of using the IATA model is that over a hundred airlines will sign up to it and countries will find it acceptable as well.

Not all airlines are happy. Michael O’Leary from Ryanair has already criticised the Qantas idea but he will have no influence in what happens. Governments will determine that.

I would imagine that rather than using an app with all the privacy concerns that might have, passengers would log on before a flight in much the same way as they do with a visa application like ESTA and load a an approved vaccination document that would be recognised worldwide or at least as worldwide as it is possible to be.

Authorities in the destination to which we are going can approve entry in advance so that when we arrive, passport officials will have access to our electronic records just like they currently do with visas.  

Using the IATA Travel Pass as a model in the period between now and when vaccination is widespread should enable a seamless switch provided that IATA agrees that this is the way back to mass travel.

It does mean that those who object to vaccination will be denied boarding but, on the plus side, it should mean that travel insurance will be valid. It should also mean that travel advisories from the FCDO will include many more countries that can be visited.

At present, no-one can say how long a vaccination will be efficient. It might need to be renewed each year, each three years or every six months. Only time will tell us how long that period will be.

Travellers also need to be aware of when they can travel after receiving the vaccine. With the Astra-Zenica dose it looks like a half-dose followed by a full dose a month later will be the norm. Do travellers have to wait until a month has elapsed before travelling? Do the other vaccines mean a shorter period before we can travel?

There are still plenty of issues to be sorted but, if nothing else, the last year has shown what can be done in a short time if so desired.

IATA and governments should get down to implementing the Qantas plan because only then can a travel regime return where quarantining and testing will largely be dumped for something that travellers and holidaymakers can see as quick and easy as opposed to the cumbersome suggestions that are currently being proposed.

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