Most of Qantas’s international routes are suspended because Australia’s borders remain shut to non-residents © Via Reuters

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Qantas plans to insist that passengers on international flights have been vaccinated against Covid-19 before boarding its planes once any jab is rolled out.

Alan Joyce, the Australian airline’s chief executive, said he thought a vaccine would become “a necessity” for international travel.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” Mr Joyce told Channel 9 in Australia.

“I think that’s going to be a common thing talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe.”

Qantas is the first big airline to publicly raise the possibility of refusing travel to passengers who have not been vaccinated.

The pandemic prompted Australia to close its borders to non-residents, and Qantas has suspended all international flights except for a skeleton schedule to New Zealand. The company does not expect to reopen most of them until the middle of next year.

Vaccine breakthroughs in the past two weeks have raised hopes that international travel could start to recover in 2021 but they have also provoked questions about how the health status of would-be passengers will be verified.

On Monday Oxford university and AstraZeneca became the third team of vaccine developers to announce their jab had been shown to be effective in late-stage trials.

David Powell, medical adviser to airline industry body Iata, said it was “a really strong possibility” that countries would start to demand proof of health status from travellers, particularly in areas with low prevalence of the virus such as Australia.

“Being able to have verifiable information about the health status of passengers, I think that is going to be critical,” he told reporters on Monday.

Tony Douglas, Etihad chief executive, told the Financial Times in September that health visas certifying that passengers were safe to fly could help the airline industry recover from the crisis.

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Several digital health passes have since been developed, including the World Economic Forum-backed CommonPass, which uses a digital certificate downloaded to a mobile phone and has held test runs to and from major hubs including New York, London and Singapore.

Iata on Monday announced it was developing a health pass with British Airways owner IAG.

But given the airline industry is not expecting a vaccine to be readily available until the middle of next year, executives see airport testing as a first step to restarting travel before any jab is rolled out to a critical mass of the population.

Airlines for Europe, a lobby group, said that while it was “very likely” that international standards would be needed on certifying vaccinations, the industry “can’t afford to wait that long”.

“At this stage, our main priority is the adoption of a common testing protocol and the recognition of test standards and measures for travel both in Europe and across the globe,” it said.

EasyJet said it had no plans to ask passengers to prove they had been vaccinated before travel. IAG and Virgin Atlantic declined to comment, while Ryanair declined to comment.

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