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Asian airlines report high Covid-19 vaccination uptake among crew

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) – Asian airlines are reporting high vaccination take-up rates among pilots and cabin crew as they wait for the region’s tight pandemic-related border controls to be relaxed.

International travel in the Asia-Pacific region remains down about 95 per cent from pre-pandemic levels, and concerns about the Delta variant have led to even stricter quarantines or flight caps in some places, leaving many air crew members idle and hoping for a recovery.

Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Australia’s Qantas Airways and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways are among those requiring crew to be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

Singapore Airlines said 99 per cent of active pilots and cabin crew had been vaccinated ahead of a Sept 1 deadline, as well as all frontline ground staff.

Malaysia Airlines said all active pilots and cabin crew had received vaccines as had 95 per cent of Malaysia-based employees under a policy set in July.

Qantas on Wednesday (Aug 18) said all employees must be vaccinated, while Cathay has mandated it for pilots and cabin crew by Aug 31.

Cathay said on Thursday in a memo to staff that only vaccinated crews would be able to operate flights to countries Hong Kong considers “high risk” starting on Friday, in return for a halving of quarantine time upon return to one week.

However, hours later, it sent a second memo seen by Reuters saying the rules had not eased and crews would need to quarantine for 14 days when returning from countries like Britain.

Cathay said last week 99 per cent of pilots and 91 per cent of cabin crew had booked or received vaccinations.

Even in places like the Philippines where crew vaccinations are voluntary, carriers are reporting high take-up rates.

Philippine Airlines said 90 per cent of flight crew were vaccinated, while budget carrier Cebu Pacific said 92 per cent of its workforce, including 97 per cent of pilots, were inoculated. AirAsia Philippines said 92 per cent of its workers had received doses, including 97 per cent of cabin crew.

In Taiwan, China Airlines said all pilots and cabin crew had completed at least their first dose, while EVA Airways said more than 90 per cent of air crew had received both doses. The Taiwanese carriers did not specify whether vaccinations were mandatory or voluntary.

United Airlines this month became the first US airline to require Covid-19 vaccinations for all domestic employees, a move that was followed by Hawaiian Airlines .

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