Rex has announced that all frontline and customer-facing staff will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and proposed a tighter deadline than both Qantas and Virgin.
Pilots, cabin crew and check-in staff will have until just 1 November 2021 to receive both doses of their vaccine, the airline said on Monday.
It follows similar announcements made earlier by rivals Qantas and Virgin, which have both given staff until 15 November to receive both jabs.
Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said that the airline would be “leading the industry” by requiring its staff to be vaccinated by 1 November, despite making its mandate announcement over a month after Qantas, and three weeks after Virgin.
Rex said the decision was made following consultations with unions, workplace health and safety representatives, and staff.
The airline conducted a survey in which 90 per cent of its workforce participated, which showed 90 per cent of respondents were happy to receive a vaccine, while 59 per cent were already fully vaccinated.
According to Rex’s survey, 8 per cent of respondents were unsure about getting the vaccine, and just 2 per cent were opposed to vaccination for medical or other reasons.
“We have a duty of care to both our passengers and staff to provide the safest possible environment,” Sharp said.
“As we provide an essential service operating to regional centres and remote communities throughout Australia, it is incumbent upon us to do whatever we can to help those residents remain safe and healthy.
“As the survey shows, Rex staff has overwhelmingly embraced this responsibility and has done its part to keep the nation safe. On behalf of the board, I congratulate them for their contribution to keeping everyone safer.”
Sharp added that the airline would offer to move the small number of unvaccinated frontline staff into non-customer-facing roles, and require them to wear face masks while at work.
On 18 August, Qantas announced that it will soon require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including both frontline and corporate staff.
The airline has said from 15 November 2021, it will mandate cabin crew, pilots and airport ground workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID, while the remaining workforce will have until 31 March 2022 to get the jab.
Qantas noted that there will be exemptions offered to those who are unable to receive the vaccine “for documented medical reasons”, which the airline expects to be a “very rare” instance.
The policy applies to staff across both its Qantas and Jetstar brands, and the decision was made following consultation with employees across both airlines.
Less than two weeks later, on 30 August, Virgin Australia followed suit and also announced that all customer-facing staff would have until 15 November to be fully inoculated against the virus, while office-based employees have until 31 March.
Vaccines have long been considered key to seeing the aviation industry return to normal operations, with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce repeatedly noting that vaccination would become a mandatory requirement for international travellers.
Qantas has also previously suggested that the federal government mandate vaccinations across all frontline aviation workers, due to their frequent interaction with others.
“While all the data shows that the risk of COVID transmission onboard aircraft remains very low, and there are many safeguards at airports, nothing reduces the risk to health like the vaccines approved for use in Australia,” Qantas said.
“That’s critical for our frontline teams, who come into contact with thousands of people each day.”
The news comes as Rex reported a $7.2 million loss before tax for the 2021-21 financial year, which executive chairman Lim Kim Hai hailed as performing “relatively well”.
“The airline industry has never been as badly ravaged in its entire history as today,” he said.
The business’ revenue during the first full 12 months of operating during the pandemic slipped 20 per cent to $256.2 million, but that included government aid of $87 million.
Rex this year launched capital cities flights for the first time in its history, after securing $150 million in investment from PAG Asia Capital.
Its underlying loss before tax, excluding market-to-market adjustments related to that funding agreement, was $18.4 million.