Rex to become Australia's first airline to fully vaccinate frontline staff by November 1

© Provided by ABC Health All of Rex’s frontline staff will be fully vaccinated by November 1. Workers who are unvaccinated will be redeployed. (Supplied: Rex)

Regional carrier Rex says it will be the first Australian airline to fully immunise all frontline staff against COVID-19 and that it plans to redeploy unvaccinated staff.

Regional Express, which operates a fleet of 60 Saab 340 turboprop aircraft and six Boeing 737s after launching jet operations on the east coast earlier this year, says vaccinations will be mandatory for employees working at check-in, as well as all pilots and cabin crew.

The move comes just weeks after Rex posted a $12.7 million loss after passenger numbers fell 29 per cent last financial year.

Deputy chairman John Sharp said about 90 per cent of the workforce had received jabs voluntarily ahead of the deadline, which he described as an “extraordinary response” and “well above the national average”.

“This is something that we’ve done to protect both our staff, who can know that they work with their colleagues that are fully vaccinated, and also our passengers,” he said.

“We want our passengers to feel safe and comfortable.

“Our staff in any single working day can be mixing very closely with hundreds and hundreds of people, travelling around various cities and states.

“It’s important that we take every precaution we can to ensure our passengers and staff are safe, and we do the right thing by the broader community.”

‘Determined’ to keep unvaccinated staff

Mr Sharp said about 30 of Rex’s 1,500 staff were opposed to getting the vaccine for medical or other reasons.

He said where possible unvaccinated workers would be moved to positions where they did not interact with customers.

“There are a few of our staff who I think have quite valid concerns with medical histories that we have to work with,” Mr Sharp said.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to sit down with those staff and talk through it all and we’ll obviously need medical advice to assist us, but we are determined to keep those staff.

“If they can be redeployed to another area where they’re not customer facing, we’ll do that to keep them in a job.

“We hope there won’t be anybody who loses a job out of this.”

Qantas, Virgin pushing vaccination policy

In August Qantas said it was making it mandatory for its 22,000 workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

It gave frontline workers until November 15 to get vaccinated and backroom staff until March 31.

Last week Virgin Australia finalised its vaccination policy after consulting with employees and unions and set the same deadline for its frontline staff.

Virgin Australia Group chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka described it as the “right policy for the extraordinary times we live in”.

“We know this will be difficult for some of our people, but we have a responsibility to do our part to protect our people, the community and our way of life,” she said.

“Vaccination is the way to do that.”

Meanwhile, Rex continues to make its passengers wear face masks.

That policy has been in place since June last year, well before National Cabinet’s decision in January this year to make face masks mandatory on all Australian domestic and international flights.

At the time, REX’s national airports manager David Brooksby said it made “sense” and described face masks as a “vital line of defence” against the spread of COVID-19.

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