Canada's overseas crew vaccination mandate is a headache for European airways – Enterprise Insurance

(Reuters) – European airlines are walking an increasingly fine line to meet both overseas vaccination and local privacy requirements as more countries require flight crews to be vaccinated against COVID-19, airlines say.

Canada is due to end an exemption on Jan. 15 that allowed unvaccinated foreign flight crews to enter and join others who have vaccination mandates for pilots and passengers.

This causes logistical headaches for European airlines, which cannot query the vaccination status of their employees, as they are bound by strict data protection laws in Europe, said a spokesman for the retail group Airlines For Europe (A4E).

"The airlines have to find workarounds to meet the Canadian entry requirement," said A4E spokeswoman Jennifer Janzen by email.

U.S. airlines such as United Airlines require their cabin crew to be fully vaccinated, while competitors such as American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have postponed the entry into force of the employee vaccination mandate to 2022.

Airlines that have suffered significant losses due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and bans blame a patchwork of changing rules for the increased bureaucracy and depressed demand for international travel.

Airlines are expecting more crew vaccinations as the fast-spreading Omikron variant is forcing governments to tighten border restrictions.

"We are now seeing more and more countries mandating or considering vaccinating flight crews," KLM Royal Dutch Airlines said in a statement.

The airline has identified intercontinental flights to around 10 destinations where the crew are not currently exempt from vaccination requirements.

Since more and more countries are demanding a vaccination certificate from everyone in an aircraft, international flights without vaccinated crews are no longer practicable, said a spokesman for German Lufthansa AG, which cannot require its staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Canada, which begged residents Wednesday not to leave the country due to Omicron, is expected to announce on Friday that people returning from short international trips will again have to present a negative COVID-19 test.

Nonetheless, some countries give foreign flight crews a passport from the vaccination requirements for international travelers, as recommended by the United Nations Aviation Administration.

International flight crews are exempt from US regulations that all non-US citizens traveling from abroad be vaccinated. Transport Canada said in a statement that it is working closely with public health officials on vaccination regulations that affect international flight crew.

Since KLM does not require crew members to be vaccinated or share their vaccination status, employees must instead apply for a general "travel restriction" so they cannot fly to a destination whose entry requirements they cannot meet, the airline said.

"Managers are not given any insight into the reason for the restriction," said the airline's statement sent by email. "This is the only way we can continue to properly fill out the duty roster and keep our operations feasible."

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