At least three Asia-Pacific carriers have made it compulsory for all travellers to be fully-vaccinated before flying, as the region moves towards post-pandemic reopening. 

The move to only welcome vaccinated travellers come as countries in the region ramp up inoculations. Air New Zealand on 3 October rolled out what it called its “no jab, no fly” passenger vaccination mandate, requiring all international passenger to be fully inoculated before being allowed to board one of its flights into the country. 

Covid vaccine-c-WHO

Source: WHO

The requirement, which kicks in on 1 February 2022, comes as New Zealand shifts away from its “zero-Covid” strategy, which aimed to completely eliminate the coronavirus. The shortcomings of this strategy became apparent with the more infectious Delta variant. 

Justifying the move, airline chief Greg Foran says vaccinations are “the new reality of international travel”, as many of its key markets already require travellers to be inoculated before entering. 

“We’ve been hearing from both customers and employees that this measure is important to them. 

“Mandating vaccination on our international flights will give both customers and employees the peace of mind that everyone onboard meets the same health requirements as they do,” says Foran. 

Days later, AirAsia Group’s Malaysia unit announced vaccination requirements — first for its domestic flights, before rolling out to international flights when borders eventually reopen. 

Like Air New Zealand, all adult travellers above 18 have to be fully-vaccinated to be allowed on board the low-cost carrier’s flights. 

In addition, AirAsia has also made it compulsory for passengers to check in digitally — through its mobile application — to reduce physical interaction at the airport. 

Echoing Foran’s comments, AirAsia Malaysia chief Riad Asmat says: “The decision to accept only fully vaccinated guests for boarding is made in the best safety interest of our guests and employees. All our flights are operated by only fully-vaccinated pilots and cabin crew and this applies to all our ground services as well.” 

Meanwhile, Australia’s Qantas — one of the first in region to require both frontline and office-based employees to be fully vaccinated — is also mandating vaccinations for all international passengers, when flights resume in November. 

As early as November 2020, airline chief Alan Joyce had raised the idea of barring unvaccinated travellers on its flights. At the time, Joyce said it would be a matter of time before it became “a common theme”. 

Still, airlines with a passenger vaccination mandate are far and few in between, for now — most carriers in the region talk of having fully-vaccinated frontline staff instead. 

A number of bilateral travel arrangements have also put vaccinations as a key requirement for quarantine-free travel — Singapore, for instance, has removed quarantine for fully-vaccinated  travellers from Germany and Brunei, and is looking to roll out the scheme to more countries in the coming months. Elsewhere, countries like Vietnam require travellers to be incoluated before flying domestically.