Qantas ponders customer incentives to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates

Qantas, which is retiring its remaining Boeing 747 planes early due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, celebrates the departure of its last 747 jumbo jet from the Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY, May 28 (Reuters) - Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX) 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 in Australia.

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. read more

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 Australian 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."

United Airlines Holdings Inc (UAL.O) 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 a fresh outbreak in Melbourne has led to a week-long lockdown in Australia's second most populous state, overall, swift contact tracing, snap lockdowns and strict social distancing rules have helped Australia keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 30,000 cases and 910 deaths. read more

Recent surveys, however, have shown that Australia's success in keeping a lid on community transmission of the virus has reduced the sense of urgency for people to make sure they are vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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