Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines have made it a priority to provide the COVID-19 vaccine for their frontline crew members to lower their chances of contracting the virus and provide an added layer of assurance to passengers.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, whose Medical Center is an accredited COVID-19 vaccination clinic, now lays claim to being the first operator in the world to vaccinate 100% of its onboard crew. Singapore Airlines says 90% of crew members have signed up for the vaccine to date.
“Since December 2020, we have been offering in-house vaccination appointments to our employees and their loved ones to ensure we are focused on our employees’ wellbeing,” explains Etihad Aviation Group vice president medical services and CSR, Dr. Nadia Bastaki.
According to the respected Travel Your Own Kanoo web site, which covers airline crew news and other travel related topics, Etihad told staffers that refusing to receive a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 will result in a loss of sick privileges if they either become infected with the novel coronavirus or are forced to self-isolate because they have been identified as a close contact of someone infected.
“Vaccination remains voluntary, but Etihad’s new policy is seen as one of the first attempts by a company to influence the choice made by its employees,” states the publication.
It is not a surprise that some airlines are making vaccination mandatory for internationally traveling staff, in the same way that some existing vaccinations, like yellow fever for example, are required.
“I chose to vaccinate because it felt like the right thing to do, both personally and professionally,” says Captain Sulaiman Yaqoobi, Etihad’s vice president flight operations. “I feel more at ease knowing that I am vaccinated and, in my role as cabin crew, I know that it will be important for global air travel. I also feel that I can better reassure guests who may be anxious or nervous about flying during COVID-19.”
For its part, Singapore Airlines says all three passenger airlines within the SIA Group – itself, SilkAir and Scoot – will operate flights “with a full complement of vaccinated pilots and cabin crew”.
The first services with a full set of vaccinated crew are SIA flight SQ956, which departed Singapore for Jakarta on 11 February; Scoot’s TR606 which departed for Bangkok; and SilkAir’s MI608 which will depart today for Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Accelerating vaccination programs is a key part of safely re-establishing the freedom of movement.
“We are very encouraged by the strong take-up rate for the vaccine from our colleagues,” says Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong in reference to the 90% of crew members who have signed on for the vaccine.
He continues, “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. They offer greater protection for our people and provide an added layer of assurance to our customers.”
The Singapore government has prioritized the aviation sector in the country’s vaccination exercise, thus the reason why SIA staffers have been vaccinated so quickly. It is not immediately clear if employees who refuse to be vaccinated will lose privileges for not complying. A spokesperson with Singapore Airlines could not immediately provide comment.