Rex is the latest industry player to call on the government to provide clear and uniform directions for post-pandemic travel requirements, to give the industry enough time to prepare.
According to Rex deputy chairman John Sharp, Rex is “waiting for government direction” on key parameters for the return of domestic travel, which the airline anticipates could be fully operational by November.
This includes whether or not passengers will need to be fully vaccinated, or provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests before boarding a domestic or regional flight
“We are waiting for the government to tell us what the rules are so that we can then implement them, but without the rules we don’t know what to do,” Sharp told Australia Today on Thursday.
Sharp said that airlines can’t just implement new policies overnight, so the government needs to be providing certainty now.
“For example, we might require our booking system to be altered, if [air travel] now requires proof of double vaccination,” he said.
“That would require a change to our website, and to our booking system, which you just can’t do overnight, it’s not a simple thing.”
Sharp highlighted that airports also need to adapt to new procedures for the processing of passengers, which also need to be clarified by the government, which need to be made uniform across all airports.
“You want it to work fairly, and you want it to work quickly and expeditiously, so we need to have policies and procedures put in place, and that just doesn’t happen in 24 hours,” he said.
The Rex boss noted that airlines are working under the assumption that vaccination will be a requirement for domestic travel, as well as international.
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“It would be the logical thing. I mean if you can’t go to a bar or a restaurant, unless you’re double vaccinated, then I presume that governments will take the same view with airlines, but we’re waiting for government direction on that.”
According to Sharp, it’s crucial for the national cabinet and federal government to step in and provide certainty on these measures, rather than letting states define their own rules independently.
“Currently, we’ve got so many different sets of rules we have to operate to, we’ve sort of almost gone back to the days prior to Federation, and where every state has a separate set of laws and rules that apply. So crossing the border becomes very difficult.
“It really requires a national decision where we look for the national cabinet to try and resolve these things.
“Because the nature of airline operation is that we do cross state borders – multiple times every day – and we need to have a common set of rules in place, otherwise, it becomes a logistical nightmare to try and operate.”
The news comes after Australian Aviation reported that airports are also calling on the government to clarify the procedures and requirements around post-pandemic travel “as soon as possible”, so the aviation industry can adequately prepare.
While airports have comfortably adapted to cater to current overseas repatriation efforts, the industry remains in the dark about some key requirements for a mass return of international flights, said Australian Airports Association CEO James Goodwin.
“At the moment, we still don’t know what procedures will be for passengers coming in from overseas, and what is needed of airports, airlines, staff and government agencies to facilitate that,” Goodwin told Australian Aviation.
“There are long lead times in aviation, so six or 12 months is not actually a long time in our world. So a lot of this planning could have and should have been done a long time ago.”
Specifically, Goodwin said the industry is unaware of exactly how the government wants passengers to be screened both before and after their flights, and how passengers who must enter hotel quarantine will be separated from others.
“It’s so important that we know what those rules and protocols will be for passengers as soon as possible, including how they’ll be screened, because if we need to make changes to our terminal to account for that, it will take time,” he said.
“Airports weren’t designed to be separating passengers based on their health or their vaccine status, so we need to prepare.”
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