Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has called on state lockdowns to stop by the end of 2021, when he says all adults should have been offered a COVID vaccination.
The comments are significantly his first since domestic aviation largely ground to a halt last week, with 373 flights arriving or departing from Sydney Airport on Wednesday cancelled or withdrawn from service.
Talking to The Australian on Sunday, Joyce said the public was “not of a mindset to say lockdowns should be continuing into next year”.
He added it was important to have “clear metrics” for Australia will transition out of the pandemic, seemingly backing the decision of the national cabinet last week to agree on a four-phase exit strategy.
“If the logic of Dan Andrews and (Queensland Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk applies, once we’ve got every adult who wants a vaccine to be vaccinated, then surely that should be the threshold,” he said. “I support that logic.”
He also pushed for a 2022 reopening of all state and international borders, given he believes every adult should have been offered a vaccine by the end of this year.
“Hopefully they can meet that time frame,” he said.
The flag carrier has long been a strong advocate for vaccination, with Joyce repeatedly pledging that all international passengers on long-haul flights will require a COVID vaccine to fly.
He said in December that the airline has made the decision because it has a “duty of care to our people” and it would put “safety ahead of popularity”.
“As the Prime Minister said, it will become a binary choice for international travellers to either get the vaccine or quarantine for two weeks. And quarantine places are very limited,” said Joyce.
“Our position on this is clear. We have a duty of care to our people and our passengers, and once a safe and effective vaccine becomes readily available, it will be a requirement for travel on our international services.
“I acknowledge some people are opposed to vaccines in-principle. We respect that. But in return, we ask everyone who travels on Qantas and Jetstar to respect our safety protocols – which will include a COVID vaccine for international flights, at least until the pandemic is under control overseas.”
In May, the airline even hinted at offering incentives for customers to get vaccinated, including the offering of unlimited free flights for a year for big-prize winners.
Vaccinated customers would be offered 1,000 frequent flyer points, as well as the potential for travel vouchers and status credits.
Additionally, Joyce said the airline could offer 10 “mega-prizes”, with at least one lucky winner from each state and territory.
The mega-prize would see a family of four receive free unlimited travel across the Qantas and Jetstar network for an entire year, as well as 1 million points to be used for hotel accommodation, donated by Qantas’ partner Accor.
“We are trying our best to help with this rollout,” Joyce said.
Joyce comments at the weekend pushing for the vaccine rollout to be complete by the end of the year tallies with Qantas’ pushing back its intended start date for international routes from October to December.
However, the annual budget hinted international borders won’t fully reopen until the middle of 2022.
Australian Aviation revealed last week that major airlines including Qantas have so far avoided mass stand-downs of staff despite half the country being put in lockdown and borders closing.
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