Ryanair says it does not believe air passengers travelling across Europe will have to prove they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 before being allowed to board flights in the future.
The company has expressed the view after the head of Qantas, Alan Joyce, told Australian television this week that he believed it would be mandatory for passengers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before boarding international flights with his airline. Joyce also said he expected other airlines to implement similar rules.
In response to queries from The Irish Times, however, Ryanair says that "no vaccine cert will be required for EU short-haul flights". It points out that Joyce suggested vaccination certificates would not be required for people on internal flights in Australia.
Joyce made his comments as the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine gathered pace: three companies are close to seeking emergency regulatory approval for vaccines shown to be more than 90 per cent effective at protecting people from the illness.
“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” Joyce said.
Ryanair says it does not believe a requirement for a vaccination will become commonplace, at least within the European Union. “Under the EU system of free movement, we believe quarantine restrictions will be removed in spring 2021, once effective vaccines become available to protect high-risk groups from Covid-19,” a spokeswoman says.
EasyJet has also said it has no plans to ask for proof of Covid-19 vaccination before travel.
Aer Lingus says that, while the airline welcomes "the recent positive news regarding vaccines", it believes "the immediate priority needs to be on the introduction of a testing standard that is rapid, affordable and scalable and which will therefore facilitate a meaningful increase in international travel". It adds that a rapid antigen-testing regime "is the most appropriate solution in this regard".
IAG, its parent company, which also owns British Airways and Iberia, has so far not commented on any plans for a vaccination certificate.
The medical adviser of IATA, the International Air Transport Authority, said on Monday that there is "a really strong possibility" that countries will seek proof of health status from travellers, particularly in places with a low incidence of Covid-19, including Australia. "Being able to have verifiable information about the health status of passengers, I think that is going to be critical," David Powell said.
The Australian authorities have been very strong on the need for a vaccination programme, with its prime minister, Scott Morrison, saying recently that vaccination will be "as mandatory as you can possibly make it" for Australians.
He had originally suggested that only people with medical exemptions would be allowed to refuse it but later clarified that by saying the government would not be able to “hold someone down and make them take it”.
Australia has also released a national vaccination policy which makes clear that people travelling to the country might be asked for a vaccination certificate before boarding in-bound flights. "There may... be circumstances where the Australian Government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination," the policy states.
Work is being done in some countries to see if the chip in passports could be adapted to include vaccination details or if a vaccination stamp might be needed.
While such a certificate may seem unusual and even invasive to many people, it is not uncommon in many parts of the world. Many countries in Africa, for example, ask would-be travellers to prove they have been vaccinated against yellow fever before they are allowed to enter the country. The proof is a simple certificate that can be easily obtained from medical centres.