Asia Minute: Vaccines and Air Travel

Dec 10, 2020

As progress continues on approvals of vaccinations for COVID-19, more countries are working on plans for how to handle future travel. And more people in the Asia Pacific are saying that vaccines may become as necessary as a passport for international travel.

The CEO of budget carrier AirAsia has a reputation for direct talk — he’s often called “blunt.”

Tony Fernandes says it’s only a matter of time until many regional governments will require any international traveler to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Wednesday, he told reporters, “I foresee in Asia anyway; I think they won’t let anyone in without a vaccination.”

Reuters reports aviation industry opposition to mandatory vaccines has “intensified” as government approvals of vaccines have been increasing. The head of Australia’s largest airline says his company will likely require passengers to be vaccinated before they get on an airplane.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce started talking about the issue last month — adding that airlines have been looking at potential methods of electronic verification of vaccinations.

Al Jazeera quotes a spokesperson for Korean Air as saying the airline is anticipating mandatory vaccines — although she added that any policy change would follow coordination with governments.

Air New Zealand had a similar response, but it will still be some time before any specific policies are adopted.

At this point, most countries in the Asia Pacific are simply not accepting tourists, especially not from destinations with large outbreaks of the coronavirus — such as the United States.