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Airline COVID testing and vaccination requirements

Aviation journalist Simon Marton is discussing the confusing and controversial topic of airline COVID testing and vaccination requirements of passengers and crews.

Germ Warfare: Are rights and responsibilities up in the air?

Across the continents, it appears that green shoots of hope for a resurgence in commercial flying
could be on the way this summer. But could there be a sting in the tail? It depends on your attitude.
Roll up your sleeve and brace, brace for impact. It’s going to be controversial….

I first came across the story about Qantas and its vaccination intentions in an article I found in Spiked, called ‘No jab, no fly’: mandatory vaccination by the backdoor?’

Qantas COVID-19 vaccination requirements. YouTube.

Written in February of this year, by Aaron Fenton-Hewitt, the author states that it shouldn’t be up to an airline or a travel company to put in place an immigration policy. The question comes down to personal choice and bodily autonomy and here, the author argues that the airlines are trying to coerce passengers to do something outside of the realm of their influence, something which is inside a government’s parameters, not a carrier’s.

Ethics: out the window?

As there are rumors of more companies following suit, this of course leads us onto greater ethical
questions.

Are the airlines above the law? Which laws are they using to evidence this requirement?
Can a carrier’s policy override a customer’s personal choices and freedoms? Is the vaccine safe?
Which vaccine are we talking about anyway? Are any of the airlines receiving a backhander for
enforcing a pre-fly vaccination? (Stranger things happen every day.)

If I must travel for a bereavement across the globe and that airline holds the monopoly, what if I refuse the vaccine on religious grounds, freedom of thought and expression, or even simply fear?

Airline COVID testing and vaccination policies differ

Over my side of the pond, Aer Lingus, Ryanair, and EasyJet do not intend at the time of writing to
introduce ‘mandatory vaccination’. But you cannot deny that there seems to be a determination for
mass-vaccination across the globe that’s taking the shape of quasi-religious hysteria over our media
channels. This could change the parameters of flying for those who resist.

EU’s “Digital Green Certificate”

The European Union hopes to introduce their ‘Digital Green Certificate’ ahead of this summer to
open up travel gates once more. This will show one of three things apparently; either that you’ve
been vaccinated, you’re tested and clear, or that you’ve fully recovered and are free from Covid.

This seems a sensible approach. Be warned though about testing. I have a very good friend whose elderly
mother passed away last week. She had been tested three times for Covid, the last one immediately
prior to death, coming back clear each time. The hospital death certificate stated cause of death:
‘Covid 19.’ My friend has contested it and it is now with a coroner. Draw your own conclusions from
that.

These are unprecedented times with new measures called for. However, when you see recent
images of some aircraft cabins rammed with passengers, breathing the same old multi-recycled
cabin air which Boeing and Airbus have been offering us for years, then maybe there are worse
things than Covid-19 to worry about…

Airline employees’ rights; flying by the seat of your pants?

Vaccination and employees’ rights to refuse vaccination have received increasing attention reported in the UK press.

Etihad has told its employees that (paraphrased) they do not have to be vaccinated, but must use their personal annual leave if they have Covid 19. The airlines. So gracious. United’s CEO Scott Kirby wants all employees to be vaccinated. The phrase ‘essential worker’ is being used. Conversely, Latvia-based Air Baltic’s CEO Martin Gauss has gone on record to say he has no right to enforce it on his workers. We will have to see what the other major carriers start to do with their workforces.

Employee versus employer

An employer on any day of the week has a fine balancing act dancing to its own policies on diversity,
inclusivity, and discrimination in the workplace alone.

When was it up to an airline or a travel company to bring in a demand which tells an employee or a customer what to do with his own body? What’s next? Laser off that tattoo? You need collagen injections if your lips aren’t full enough for grooming standards? You’re slowing down on pre-flight checks; you need a new course of Sertraline?

Yes sure, we’ve needed Yellow Fever, Typhoid, or Tetanus jabs if we are flying crews
operating on routes that may demand it.

The crucial difference here is that the Covid vaccines have so many unknowns about them, and to the casual observer have been rushed through under the blanket of public protection.

Airline passenger COVID testing and vaccination

  • British Airways (BA) and American Airlines (AA) are putting in place their own checks at the booking stages.
  • BA is trialing VeriFLY to show a pass/ fail for the passenger, based on a negative Covid test and vaccine status.
  • Lufthansa (LH), JetBlue (B6), Virgin Atlantic (VS), and Cathay Pacific (CX) have signed up for the CommonPass app, which allows travelers to upload their Covid-19 test results or proof of vaccination which generates a certificate in the form of a QR code. CommonPass declares: ‘Share your current health status so you can safely return to travel and life.’ Voluntary at present but who knows….?

Flying by the seat of their pants and forging new paths is one thing. We all love a people’s hero and a
rags-to-riches story. We love those films where the lone hero, shunned by everyone fights the
system and exposes the lies.

However, this does smack of the airlines taking their own course and administering their own rule above the rule of law.

Vaccines

There are AstraZeneca concerns in Europe with a total of sixteen countries temporarily pausing the
injection rollout while blood clot fears are investigated.

Officially there are four main vaccines, but I have heard from other sources that there may be as many as seventy in existence. AstraZeneca is not without its own controversies. NB the issues with a different drug- Seroquel, which is not for me to comment on here. I’m all about the airplanes….

What’s the deal on the vaccine?

Is there really a sub-agenda going on here? Fear, statistics, constant TV bombardment, the vaccine
‘savior’, ‘stay home, don’t go out, ‘go out but wear a mask’, ‘consider others, you might have it,
they might have it’, ‘don’t travel’, ‘only travel if it’s absolutely necessary, ‘avoid others’, ‘you can
now meet with others as long as you’re 2m apart’ and so on….

There appears to be a split here with one half saying; ‘It’s irresponsible, if not dangerous, not to take
the vaccine’, while the other side says; ‘It hasn’t been fully tested yet and it doesn’t belong in my body.’

Freedom of choice

If we as societies can’t respect personal choice, (and we claim to do that every day), then
there’s something deeply wrong with all of us. Men and women fought for our personal freedoms,
and as the writer in Spiked remarked (paraphrased), airline and travel companies shouldn’t get away
with undermining our civil liberties, claiming it’s about safety.

You start to wonder how the last couple of generations got through the horrors, hardships, and
losses in WW1 and WW2. This really is germ warfare. Of jumbo proportions.

What do you think about the controversial and varied airline covid testing and vaccination requirements for passengers as well as crews? You can let us know here.

Simon Marton, Aviation Journalist

Simon Marton author
Simon J. Marton

Aviation Expert and Journalist Simon J Marton lives in the rolling hills above Bath, Somerset, England with his family and various animals. He used to work in the airline industry for 5 UK airlines and now does something completely different, having stumbled on law, housing and drum-teaching on the way. He has a passion for encouraging and forging new paths, believing that life should be an adventure. Writing is just a part of that journey, and he has a special interest in male-identity and mental health. Marton is also the author of the popular book Journey of a Reluctant Air Steward.

Featured Image: Unsplash.

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