As everyone’s in the region wait for the tight pandemic-related border controls to be relaxed, Asian airlines are reporting high vaccination take-up rates among pilots and cabin crew.
International travel in the Asia-Pacific region is still down about 95% from pre-pandemic levels, and fears about the Delta variant have resulted in even stricter quarantines or flight caps in some places, leaving many aircrew members idle and hoping for a recovery.
Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific Airways are among the carriers that require the crew to be vaccinated or face termination.
Singapore Airlines said 99 per cent of active pilots and cabin crew, as well as all frontline ground staff, had been vaccinated ahead of a September 1 deadline.
Malaysia Airlines stated that all active pilots and cabin crew, as well as 95% of Malaysia-based employees, had received vaccines as part of a July policy.
Qantas on Wednesday last Wednesday announced that all employees must be vaccinated, while Cathay has mandated it for pilots and cabin crew by Aug 31.
Cathay Pacific said in a memo to employees on Thursday that only vaccinated crews would be able to fly to countries considered “high risk” by Hong Kong beginning on Friday, in exchange for halving quarantine time upon return to one week.
However, hours later, it sent a second memo stating that the rules had not been relaxed and that crews returning from countries such as the United Kingdom would be quarantined for 14 days.
Cathay said last week that 99.9% of pilots and 91% of the cabin crew had scheduled or received vaccinations.
Even in places where crew vaccinations are voluntary, such as the Philippines, carriers report high take-up rates.
Philippine Airlines reported that 90% of its flight crew had been immunised, while Cebu Pacific reported that 92% of its workforce, including 97% of pilots, had been immunised. AirAsia Philippines reported that 92% of its employees, including 97% of cabin crew, had received doses.
In Taiwan, China Airlines reported that all pilots and cabin crew had received at least their first dose, while EVA Airways reported that more than 90% of aircrew had received both doses. Taiwanese carriers did not say whether vaccinations were required or voluntary.
By Joe Cusmano