Since Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung first declared his intention for SIA to become “the world’s first fully vaccinated airline” in January this year, there’s been something of a race between a few carriers to actually achieve the title.
Ong’s desire, made in a speech at the Changi Terminal 4 facility where vaccines have been rolled out to aviation workers in Singapore as a priority group, prompted Middle East carriers Emirates and Etihad to also strive for the accolade, seen as a way to reassure customers about their onboard safety once they can travel again.
Etihad claimed victory
Yesterday it was Abu Dhabi-based Etihad claiming victory as the world’s first “fully vaccinated” airline, with the carrier proudly proclaiming that 100% of its operational pilots and cabin crew have now received at least the first of two vaccine doses required to achieve the maximum immunity against COVID-19.
All current vaccines being administered globally require two doses for full protection, meaning many of these crew members will still be building up to the full immunity.
We understand that Etihad has been inoculating its staff with the Sinopharm vaccine, and while the carrier has not made the jab compulsory for its staff, all flights are now being operated only by vaccinated crew (1+ dose received).
“We proactively made the vaccine available to all our employees to not only help combat the effects of COVID-19 but to make travellers feel confident and reassured the next time they fly with us. We are the only airline in the world to make COVID-19 testing mandatory for every passenger and crew member before every flight and now, we’re the first airline in the world with 100% vaccinated crew on board.”Tony Douglas, CEO, Etihad
The high vaccination rate at the airline was made possible through Etihad’s ‘Protected Together’ employee vaccination initiative, which was formally launched in January this year and builds on the UAE’s ‘Choose to Vaccinate’ campaign.
Etihad’s Dubai-based rival Emirates is likely to be the next airline to claim 100% vaccination status among its crew, who have been receiving one of three different vaccines (Sinopharm, Pfizer and AstraZeneca) since mid-January.
Overall, the UAE currently boasts the world’s third-highest rate of COVID-19 vaccination, with 44 doses administered per 100 people.
Singapore Airlines probably operated the first fully vaccinated flights
This morning it was the SIA Group’s turn to beat the drum for its own flights departing today fully staffed by vaccinated pilots and cabin crew teams, from Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot.
A slight difference from Etihad’s metric though – when SIA said vaccinated they meant fully vaccinated. The airline confirmed to Mainly Miles this morning that all the crew members on these three flights today have received both doses of the vaccine.
“The vaccinated crew operating the three flights departing today have received both vaccine doses.”SIA spokesperson
Singapore is currently administering only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires two doses to be administered three weeks apart, though the Moderna vaccine has now been approved by authorities for use in due course.
The three flights operating today (11th February 2021) with fully vaccinated crew are:
Number of crew
Unlike Etihad however, which is now operating all its flights with at least partially or fully vaccinated crew, Singapore Airlines confirmed to us that this won’t be the case for all its Group services at the moment.
“Not all flights will be operated by a full set of vaccinated cabin crew. However, as more operating crew receive the Covid-19 vaccine, we can expect more such flights.”SIA spokesperson
Over 90% of SIA’s cabin crew and pilots have signed up for the vaccine, with the second doses reportedly being administered from early this week for some of those who got their initial shots in the first batches, so in due course there should be a very high level of protection across the airline.
Even for aviation workers, the vaccine remains voluntary in Singapore, so whether SIA can ever reach a 100% vaccinated level for its crew members remains to be seen. It’s worth noting that some people aren’t able to take the current vaccine due to existing medical conditions.
“We are very encouraged by the strong take-up rate for the vaccine from our colleagues. Vaccinations will be key to the reopening of borders and to enhancing travel confidence, in tandem with robust testing regimes and the wide-ranging safe management measures that are in place on the ground and in the air. They offer greater protection for our people and provide an added layer of assurance to our customers.”Goh Choon Phong, CEO, Singapore Airlines
SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong was vaccinated at Changi Terminal 4 on the first day of the programme, Monday 18th January 2021, alongside Singapore’s Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung and aviation staff, in a bid to encourage others to take up the offer of an early vaccine.
Later this year we are all hoping for a gradual relaxation of border restrictions and the opportunity to enjoy discretionary travel again, but of course COVID-19 won’t have gone away. Precautions will still need to be taken and passenger concerns about safety will remain at the forefront for some time to come.
To that end, it’s great to see airlines including SIA and the Middle East carriers pushing to have their operational crew members on board flights vaccinated, to help reassure customers about their safety once travel restarts.
It’s possible that most if not all passengers on some routes will have to be vaccinated towards the end of the year to meet quarantine-free entry requirements for certain countries, so it’s quite reasonable to expect all crew members who are medically able to have the vaccine to have done so too.
At the time of writing, over 152 million COVID-19 vaccination shots have been administered worldwide, the USA leading the campaign with 46 million doses given.
Over 250,000 people in Singapore have now received their first dose of the vaccine, with the country confident it can vaccinate its entire 5.7 million adult resident population by the end of 2021, provided vaccine supply is not interrupted.
(Cover Photo: Singapore Airlines)