Qantas vaccine incentives: Plan to reward vaccinated passengers with points, vouchers

Qantas said on Friday it was considering a plan to reward customers who have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine with incentives like frequent flyer points or flight vouchers to help boost vaccination rates.

The airline has said it will require all passengers to be vaccinated when it restarts international flights beyond New Zealand, in a policy that has been cricitised by the World Travel and Tourism Council as discriminatory.

"We will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft... for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country we think that's a necessity," Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said in November.

Qantas is currently selling tickets to destinations like the United States, Britain and Japan from late December though that could be further postponed as the federal government has said borders may remain closed until mid-2022.

"As a large company that relies on travel to put our people and planes back to work, we're obviously motivated to help with the national vaccine effort," Qantas chief customer officer Stephanie Tully said in a statement.

"We're still thinking through how this would work, but the incentive could be Qantas points, Qantas or Jetstar flight vouchers, or status credits for frequent flyers."

Mr Joyce has been critical of the slow rollout of vaccines, telling The Age and Sydney Morning Herald this month the rollout "feels like it's slower than it should be". 

"The rest of the world is moving ahead: The US and UK... [are] talking about a travel corridor between both countries; the Europeans are letting people in who have been vaccinated," he said.

"Australia has been ahead of the world in everything else, we need to make sure we don't lag behind on this."

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In the US, United Airlines said on Monday it would offer vaccinated loyalty programme members the chance to win free flights for a year's worth of travel to anywhere in the world it flies in support of the Biden administration's efforts to encourage more people to get their COVID-19 vaccination.

While Qantas is anxious to restart international operations, the airline has enjoyed success on the domestic front. Earlier this week it announced 236-seat Boeing 787 Dreamliners would be put on domestic routes from Sydney to Perth, as well as adding new routes and additional capacity on existing routes. The new routes and larger aircraft will see Qantas' capacity exceed 100 per cent of pre-COVID levels in the coming months, according to the airline. 

Mr Joyce has warned that Australia risks becoming a hermit nation unless reopening borders is given higher priority. 

He said opening the borders too slowly could permanently damage Australia's tourism industry as visitors opt for other markets. 

CEO of rival Virgin Australia Jayne Hrdlicka has also called for a faster opening of borders once sufficient vaccinations are administered, controversially saying borders should open even if "some people may die". 

with REUTERS

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