Virgin Australia plans to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all frontline staff by November, joining the ranks of local carriers hoping to cut the coronavirus risks faced by both employees and passengers.
In a Monday statement, Virgin Australia proposed to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for flight, ground, and airport crew from November 15, with jabs a requirement for office staff from March 2022.
The plan will be presented to employees and unions for consultation, the airline said.
Employees with medical exemptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the airline also promising to run an education program to explain the overwhelming benefits of vaccination.
The carrier’s final policy position will be revealed later this month, but Virgin Australia says over 75% of its frontline workforce has already received at least one vaccine dose.
Virgin Australia, which posted a $3.1 billion loss for the 2020 financial year, has been ravaged by the pandemic and international border closures.
With high national vaccination rates flagged as the ticket out of on-again, off-again lockdowns and international isolation, Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said driving jab rates is essential.
“Vaccination is the only solution to the situation Australia currently finds itself in, and something we have determined is vital to keep our team safe, given the high public exposure most of them encounter day to day,” she said.
With its pledge to vaccinate all staff, the company has pulled itself into line with rival carrier Qantas and fly-in, fly-out operator Alliance Airlines.
Like Qantas, Virgin Australia also plans to incentivise vaccination for passengers.
Its long-heralded VA-X and Win program, which promises rewards to staff and passengers who can prove they’ve been vaccinated, will come into effect next week, the airline said.
In June, Virgin Australia said the program would award one vaccinated traveler with a million Velocity Frequent Flyer Points, enough for a lengthy around-the world trip.
Dozens of free business class flights could be included as minor prizes, the airline added.