Canada’s vaccine mandate for foreign crews a headache for European airlines

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People walk to Terminal 1 at Toronto Pearson Airport after mandatory coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing for international arrivals comes into effect in Mississauga, Ontario Canada, February 15, 2021. REUTERS / Carlos Osorio / File Photo

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December 17 (Reuters) – European airlines are walking an increasingly thin line to meet both overseas inoculation requirements and local privacy requirements as more countries demand that flight crews be vaccinated against COVID-19, carriers say.

Canada is expected to end an exemption on Jan.15 that allowed entry of unvaccinated foreign flight crews, joining others who have vaccination mandates for pilots and passengers.

This creates a logistical headache for European carriers, who cannot apply for the vaccination status of their employees because they are subject to strict data protection laws in Europe, said a spokesperson for the Airlines For business group. Europe (A4E).

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“Carriers will have to find workarounds in order to comply with entry requirements into Canada,” A4E spokeswoman Jennifer Janzen said via email.

U.S. carriers like United Airlines (UAL.O) require their cabin crew to be fully vaccinated, while competitors like American Airlines (AAL.O) and Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) have postponed the effective date vaccination mandates until 2022 for employees.

Airlines, which have suffered heavy losses from COVID-19 travel restrictions and bans, blame a patchwork of changing rules for increasing red tape and depressed demand for international travel. Read more

Airlines expect to see more vaccination warrants for aircrews, as the rapidly spreading Omicron variant forces governments to tighten border restrictions.

“We are now seeing that more and more countries are making compulsory or considering vaccination of flight crews,” KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (AIRF.PA) said in a statement.

The carrier has identified intercontinental flights to around 10 destinations where the crew is currently not exempt from vaccine requirements.

As more countries require proof of vaccination from everyone on board planes, international flights will no longer be possible without vaccinated crews, a spokesperson for German company Lufthansa AG (LHAG.DE) said. which cannot force its staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Canada, which pleaded with residents on Wednesday not to leave the country because of Omicron, is expected to announce on Friday that it will again require people returning from short trips abroad to submit a negative COVID-19 test. Read more

Still, some countries grant foreign flight crews a pass from vaccination rules targeting international travelers, as recommended by the United Nations aviation agency.

International crews are exempt from US requirements that all non-US citizens traveling from overseas must be vaccinated.

Transport Canada said in a statement it was working closely “with public health officials on vaccination requirements affecting international crews.”

Since KLM does not require crew members to be vaccinated or share their vaccination status, employees should instead look for a generalized “travel restriction” so that they are not scheduled to travel to a destination with entry requirements they cannot meet, the carrier said.

“Managers do not understand the reason for the restriction,” the airline said in the emailed statement. “Only then can we continue to fill in the lists correctly and keep our operation feasible.”

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Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal Editing by Nick Zieminski

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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