Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is joining the growing group of airlines mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for its flight crews. The airline says the move is necessary for operational and duty of care reasons.
SWISS is mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all its flight crews. Photo: SWISS
SWISS says vaccinations necessary to reduce complexity
SWISS joins a diverse number of airlines beginning to enforce COVID-19 vaccinations among flight crews and frontline personnel. They include United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Qantas.
Citing the example of Hong Kong, SWISS says more and more countries are insisting on vaccinated flight crews. The airline says Hong Kong brought in the rule with immediate effect, giving the airline no notice.
Organizing flight crews based on vaccinated and unvaccinated status significantly increases complexity at SWISS and is threatening reliable flight operations.
“We must initiate this action now,” says SWISS CEO Dieter Vranckx. “If we are to continue to maintain our global route network and fulfil our care obligations towards our employees.”
The vaccination rule applies to all SWISS flight crews. Photo: SWISS
Mid-November deadline for SWISS flight crews
Part of the Lufthansa Group, SWISS flies to over 100 destinations from its Zurich and Geneva hubs. In 2020, the airline operated over 48,000 flights. According to SWISS, at the end of 2020, the airline employed 9,126 workers, including 1,365 pilots and 4,442 cabin crew personnel.
SWISS is giving its flight crews three months to organise their vaccinations, with a November 15 deadline. Besides the problem of some destinations not allowing unvaccinated flight crews to land, SWISS says maintaining two crew categories would also entail unequal treatment in rostering terms.
“Some destinations and regions could no longer be served, and this, in turn, would seriously diminish the effectiveness of the SWISS hub system,” says SWISS in a statement.
Outside the EU and United Kingdom, SWISS flies to a diverse range of medium and long-haul destinations. They include Chicago, Montreal, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Singapore, Shanghai, and Tokyo.
Over half of Switzerland’s population is fully vaccinated, more than double the global average. Despite the take it or leave it nature of the decision at SWISS, Dieter Vranckx says SWISS has a duty of care towards its cockpit and cabin personnel.
Saying the airline was “open and transparent” about its vaccination decision, SWISS also notes the decision is supported by provisions in the collective labour agreements for cockpit and cabin personnel.
SWISS is key to normalise its medium and long-haul flying. Photo: SWISS
SWISS pushes to get long-haul flying back on track
With its international network battered by the travel downturn and tough border restrictions at most destinations, SWISS has been proactive in exploring ways to normalize flying again. Earlier this year, SWISS participated in IATA Travel Pass trials.
“We support all endeavours to make travel simple and reliable again,” said Mr Vranckx.
Behind the scenes lobbying has also seen the airline exploring ways to get its international network back on track. Going into the 2021 northern summer, passenger volumes at Switzerland’s airports had fallen by around 75%.
“As a business and industrial location and as an export nation, Switzerland relies on having well-functioning air transport services,” said the SWISS CEO. “Travel must be made possible and plannable again – responsibly, with an awareness and appreciation of the associated risks, and with due and full regard to the protection concepts required.”
This week’s decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all flight crews is a step in that direction.
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