Vaccination has brought about more than just a ray of hope to the world of travel. Perhaps never in history was a vaccine created with the speed and precision as it did for Covid-19. It was the need of the hour and several pharmaceutical giants jumped into the opportunity, hoping to make the globe a safer place whilst making unimaginable revenue. The pharmaceutical companies such Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson announced their vaccines consecutively one after the other, and the race for countries to source vaccines for their citizens began. Some countries managed to get the vials soon, while others are still falling behind.
Airlines were the first to announce that vaccination would become an integral part of their recovery plan. Here are the various initiatives adopted by global airlines to integrate vaccination into their recovery plan.
All Nippon Airways
It was announced in June that All Nippon Airways actively began vaccinating its pilots and cabin attendants flying on international flights against Covid-19. The Japan-based airline became one of the first companies to launch workplace vaccinations in Japan. The airline had then announced that it planned to increase its daily vaccination capacity to about 300 to eventually cover all its 46,500 employees. ana.co.jp
To ensure their employees are vaccinated on priority, the Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific is proactively undertaking several vaccination programmes. In April, the airline launched the “Arm up, let’s fly again!” campaign to build awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated as early as possible. Other initiatives by The Cathay Pacific Group includes setting up vaccination camps for its employees (specifically in Hong Kong), creating a dedicated page regarding vaccination on its internal platform where they provided insights on the different vaccinations programmes and answered general and specific vaccination queries. Also, to determine whether employees are physically suitable for vaccination, the group organised a free pre-vaccination medical assessment. cathaypacific.com
Emirates was among the first few transport and air services organisations in the world to offer employees the option to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Emirates rolled out Covid-19 vaccination programmes for its UAE-based workforce in coordination with the Dubai Health Authority and the Ministry of Health and Prevention. In February, the airline operated its first flight serviced by fully vaccinated frontline teams across all customer touchpoints. In April, the full-service carrier operated a special flight marking the UAE vaccination milestone. The Emirates flight EK2021 carried close to 400 fully vaccinated customers onboard. The flight was also supported by fully vaccinated teams across the aviation ecosystem, from onboard crew to ground staff. emirates.com
Indigo has also showcased commitment towards the vaccination of its entire workforce, including its subsidiary Agile. The India-based low-cost carrier is sponsoring vaccination for all its employees and facilitating it for their families as well. As of now, the airline has completed the first dose of vaccination for almost 100 per cent of its employees. It has also initiated the second dose and have been completed for around 25 per cent employees. The airline is targeting to achieve 90 per cent completion for both vaccination doses by end of August. To encourage vaccination among general public, Indigo also launched the Vaxi Fare featuring 10 per cent discount on the base fare to customers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19. goindigo.in
In June, Lufthansa started vaccination of employees in Germany. The initial focus was on the staff who have personal contact with customers, such as aircraft crews or employees at the stations. The airline is also working to allow German customers to access their vaccination certificates directly from its app. Lufthansa Cargo, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lufthansa was among the leading airlines to sign an agreement with UNICEF to support the prioritisation of delivery of Covid-19 vaccines, essential medicines, medical devices and other critical supplies. Even before the global distributions of vaccines started, a specially-assembled task force was inducted to prepare a variety of possible transport scenarios. lufthansagroup.com
Demonstrating its readiness for the next phase of global travel, Qatar Airways has been setting high standards of safety and customer service. The flag carrier of Qatar has expanded the IATA Travel Pass trial, becoming the first airline to integrate vaccination certificates in the “Digital Passport” mobile app. This will enable travellers to Doha to share their vaccination certificate via their mobile with the airline and authorities in a more secure and seamless way. With the support of the government and local health authorities, the airline ensured that its staff is vaccinated without any hassle. In April, Qatar Airways operated the world’s first fully Covid-19 vaccinated flight. qatarairways.com
As the city-state aimed to rejuvenate its status as an international travel hub, Singapore Airlines (SIA) began operating flights with full sets of crew members vaccinated against Covid-19 back in February 2021. The airline had then claimed that it expected most of its crew to have received the second dose by the end of March 2021. In the same month, Singapore Airlines became the world’s first airline to pilot the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass mobile application for digital health verification, on flights travelling from Singapore to London. The pilot has paved the way for the integration of the entire digital health verification process into the SingaporeAir mobile app using IATA’s Travel Pass framework. singaporeair.com
India-based low-cost carrier Spicejet has rolled out several initiatives to streamline the vaccination process across India. The airline launched a company-sponsored vaccination drive that aims to cover employees across all the stations on the airline’s network. The airline stated that it will also facilitate vaccination for the families of employees. The airline’s healthcare arm Spicehealth recently started a Covid vaccination drive for the general public by tying up with major hospitals in Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Jharkhand. It is assisting the government to make the world’s largest-ever vaccination drive a success. spicejet.com
Virgin Atlantic joined forces with British Airways and Heathrow to launch “proving trials” to simplify travel rules for fully vaccinated passengers. The initiative aimed to convince the government to move forward with its plans to remove quarantine for fully vaccinated passengers entering the UK from “amber” list countries. Virgin Atlantic staff, spanning cabin crew, pilots, ground and office-based teams, signed up to assist the NHS and St John’s Ambulance service in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine across the UK. The airline worked to secure voluntary and paid opportunities for its staff at NHS mass vaccination centres and local facilities. The NHS has also offered a fast-track application process for Virgin Atlantic employees. virginatlantic.com
Vistara boasts being the first airline in India to operate flights with cabin crew and pilots fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The full-service carrier has managed to get almost 100 per cent of its staff vaccinated with at least the first dose by adopting a multi-pronged approach that included leveraging airport-led vaccination drives across the country; utilising the infrastructure available from the government and exclusive centres that consider airline staff on priority as frontline staff; tie-ups with healthcare providers and with Tata ecosystem for exclusive vaccination camps. An internal tool is being developed where health and vaccination-related data can be uploaded by employees as well as central admin. Employees are also being tracked and approached for their second doses based on their eligibility dates. airvistara.com
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow joined forces to prove it’s possible to quickly and easily verify those arriving into the UK who are fully vaccinated – an identification process already in place for outbound travel to several countries.
The initiative saw fully vaccinated volunteers travelling on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to London Heathrow showing proof of their vaccine status.
The trial aimed to reassure Government that airlines and airports can check vaccine status upstream and away from the Border, ensuring no further pressure in UK immigration halls. British Airways customers can also access a discounted rate for the mandatory arrivals tests.
“We need to act quickly to protect jobs, re-build the UK economy and reunite loved ones. We are already helping our customers show proof of their vaccination status when travelling to a number of other countries outside the UK which require it, and we’re confident we can make this happen for entry to Britain too, very quickly. We look forward to providing the data that proves it’s simple for fully vaccinated status to be verified and to the Government meeting its commitment to get the country moving again,” says Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO. ba.com
Turkish Cargo, a subsidiary of the national flag carrier Turkish Airlines, has delivered 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to more than 35 countries around the world with over 250 flights since the outbreak hit.
Turkish Cargo created a global corridor between more than 400 destinations, by transporting vaccines to key destinations such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Rome, Serbia, Denmark, USA, Brazil and Mexico.
Turkish Cargo reaches over 320 destinations – including nearly 100 direct cargo destinations – with a fleet of 371 aircraft.
“As the pandemic poses an unprecedented threat to human health, our Turkish Cargo brand has a significant advantage when it comes to combating this threat,” said Ilker Aycı, Turkish Airlines’ CEO. turkishairlines.com
Akanksha Maker, Nisha Shroff and Sanchita Nambiar