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SWISS airline tells all flight crew to take Covid-19 jab

SWISS believes compulsory vaccinations are the only way forward to maintain operations. Keystone / Steffen Schmidt

All Swiss International Air Lines flying personnel have been instructed by the company to take Covid-19 vaccinations from November 15.

This content was published on August 25, 2021 - 13:20
swissinfo.ch/mga

The airline says it will become impossible to continue its flight operations around the world without this mandatory vaccination measure. Hong Kong, for example, is already demanding proof of vaccination of flight crews from some destinations.

“Some destinations and regions could no longer be served, and this in turn would seriously diminish the effectiveness of the SWISS hub system,” SWISS said in a statement on TuesdayExternal link.

The airline also believes this is the best way to ensure the health and safety of its pilots and other cabin crew.

Australian airline Qantas and some United States operators have already begun insisting on vaccinations for flying staff. SWISS is the first European airline to make this demand.

Trade unions say they can understand the measure. “Of course, we would have wished for vaccinations to remain voluntary,” said the flight attendant union Kapers.

“But in the last few weeks, we observed an increasing number of countries imposing entry restrictions for people without a vaccination.  It is to be expected that this is just the beginning of this development and will affect long-haul as well as short-haul destinations.”

Pilots’ union Aeropers said: “Vaccination should in principle be voluntary, but at SWISS we consider the introduction of mandatory vaccination to be appropriate and plausible in view of the current situation. Vaccination provides the best possible protection against Covid-19 in the cockpit.”

However, both unions expressed annoyance that they were not consulted in advance of the announcement. SWISS is currently discussing with unions the best approach towards flight crew who either do not want to take a vaccine or are unable to do so.

Switzerland is currently grappling with the issue of mandatory vaccinations for company staff. SWISS is the first domestic company to issue such a demand, but tech giant Google has hinted it may extend its US mandatory vaccine requirement to sites in other countries.

In the meantime, the Swiss government has launched a renewed campaign to persuade more people to get a jab. Around half of the population is fully vaccinated, but numbers of new infections are rising at a worrying rate.

For its part, SWISS has already been forced to reduce the size of its fleet at lay off 550 staff as the pandemic resulted in significant financial losses.

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