Airlines are starting to promote a new perk to bring passengers back nearly a year after the pandemic started: vaccinated pilots and flight attendants.
On Wednesday, Etihad Airways announced it was “the first airline in the world with 100% vaccinated crew on board.” Not to be outdone, Singapore Airlines Group said that its three carriers — Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot — on Thursday would be among the first airlines in the world to operate flights with all pilots and cabin crew vaccinated.
The CEO of United Airlines said last month that he wants to make the vaccine mandatory for employees, which the airline is still considering. And airline and aviation workers in the United States have asked to be given priority for vaccinations, according to news reports.
The moves come as airlines try to recover from the worst year on record for air travel demand. The International Air Transport Association said demand fell by nearly 66 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.
“Vaccinations will be key to the reopening of borders and to enhancing travel confidence, in tandem with robust testing regimes and the wide-ranging safe management measures that are in place on the ground and in the air,” Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said in a statement. “They offer greater protection for our people and provide an added layer of assurance to our customers.”
More than 90 percent of the Singapore company’s pilots and crew have signed up for the vaccine so far, according to a news release. Singapore has made aviation workers a priority for vaccinations.
Etihad, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, said more than 75 percent of its entire staff has received at least one dose of the vaccine. All of its operating pilots and cabin crew have been vaccinated. The airline already made testing mandatory for every passenger and crew member before flying.
“We proactively made the vaccine available to all our employees to not only help combat the effects of COVID-19 but to make travelers feel confident and reassured the next time they fly with us,” Tony Douglas, group chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group, said in a statement.
Some countries are letting fully vaccinated visitors avoid entry requirements such as quarantines, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that people who have been fully vaccinated don’t have to quarantine after they’ve been exposed to someone with the virus.
But infectious-disease specialists say even vaccinated people should still limit travel to essential trips and use precautions like wearing masks and keeping a distance. It’s still not clear if people who have been inoculated can transmit the virus, even if they are protected against getting sick.
“You still need to reduce your risk until the majority of the population is protected,” Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist with the COVID Tracking Project, told The Washington Post.
— — –
The Washington Post’s Natalie B. Compton contributed to this report.