A mandatory vaccine and July start date: Everything we know about international travel in 2021.

Beyond our borders, the world is grappling with COVID-19 at levels never seen before in Australia.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there were 490,000 new cases of coronavirus around the world on Sunday, November 22. In Australia on the same day, there were 15 cases - all in hotel quarantine.

It's taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get to this point, but for many of us, things have started to look a lot like our pre-COVID lives - with added caution, of course.

Watch: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on A Current Affair. Post continues below video.

Video via A Current Affair.

This has meant we've once again started to ask the question: When will we be able to travel again?

As a melting pot of cultures and immigrants, and with gap years being a rite of passage for many young Australians, travel has long been a common part of our lives down here at the bottom of the world.

So... when can we find ourselves carrying our passports aboard the flying kangaroo again, and what the heck will it look like?

Here is what we might expect.


Speaking on A Current Affair on Monday, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline will likely require international passengers to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding their flight.

"We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft," Joyce said.

"Whether you need that domestically, we will have to see what happens with COVID-19 in the market. But certainly for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country, we think that's a necessity."


Listen: International travel in 2021. Post continues below audio.

Joyce reiterated Qantas' plan to get back in international skies in 2021 - but there's still a while to wait.

"We've always planned that from July next year we'll start reactivating our long haul international aircraft, and get a lot of our people back to work, and that still looks like the plan," Joyce explained.

"The news about the vaccines are very positive, which I think is great for that border opening plan."

Currently, all Qantas international flights, except for those between Australia and New Zealand and repatriation services, are suspended.

At Qantas' October AGM, chairman Richard Goyder identified additional destinations that could see travel with Australia sooner than others.

"By early next year, we may find that Korea, Taiwan and various islands in the Pacific are top Qantas destinations while we wait for our core international markets like the US and UK to re-open," he stated.

Health passports.

Joyce told A Current Affair airlines and governments were already looking into a 'vaccination passport' which would need to be carried by travellers in the future.

"What we are looking at is how you can have [a] vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you are travelling to?" he said.

"There's a lot of logistics, a lot of technology that will be needed to be put in place to make this happen. But the airlines and the governments are working on this as we speak."

Image: Getty.


Speaking to Mamamia's daily news podcast The Quicky, Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway agreed this was the future of travel.

"As we carry a passport when we travel abroad, we're going to in essence require a 'health passport' which could all be digitally developed...

"I think over these next six/12/18 months possibly two years, and in reality beyond, I think people will have had to either have done a COVID test 24-48 hours before travel, possibly having some sort of what they call a rapid testing regime occurring either at airport at departure or airport at arrival, and you'll need to show... you were vaccinated once the vaccine hits the streets."

Westaway said it will require far more logistics that traditional international travel, but there was "real hope" that safe international airline travel would be back soon.

"I think take the leads of the likes of Qantas. They're the leading airline in the world for a reason, and they've got their heads screwed on here. I think the feeling is that the timeline might start to really shrink with these vaccine solutions being pushed around."

No-go zones.

Sadly, many parts of the world have been much harder hit by COVID-19 than we have been in Australia and at this point, show no signs of rapidly slowing down infection rates.

Because of this, your North American travel plans may need to be placed on the back burner much longer than your South-Pacific bucket list.

Last week, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the National Press Club Australia's international border would mostly remain closed until late 2021.

Friends hug as they arrive into the international arrivals area at Sydney's Airport after landing on an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland in October. Image: Getty.


Exceptions would come in the form of a travel bubble, like the one set up with New Zealand. Currently, travellers who have spent more than 14 days in NZ can enter Australia without needing to quarantine.

It's only a one-way bubble at this point: Australians are still unable to leave Australia, and any arrivals to NZ must go into mandatory hotel quarantine.

Westaway told The Quicky there are likely to be parts of the world that remain 'off-limits' for a time, including the United States and heavily hit parts of Europe such as the UK and Germany.

"If you're looking to travel abroad over the next six-12-18 months, I think New Zealand will definitely be on the radar from 2021. The moment that the New Zealanders drop the mandatory 14-day quarantine arrangement, I think the New Zealand market will really open up.

"I think the Pacific Islands are a really good opportunity for Australians in 2021. They have very low levels of COVID, the issue will be how we can ensure we don't accidentally export it, even though we have very low levels here.

"And South East Asia I think is a real option. Places like Singapore are trying really hard to get what they call 'green lanes' and established protocols in place, the Prime Minister was in Japan last week and I'm quite optimistic about the Japanese market for us... But I think Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific are probably going to be our options.

"You'd have to be a pretty intrepid traveller to want to be embarking on a journey into Europe or the States anytime soon."

Feature image: Getty.