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Swiss airlines makes Covid vaccination compulsory for pilots and cabin crew

All cabin crew - including pilots and stewards - flying on Swiss airlines must get vaccinated for Covid after the flagship carrier updated its rules.

Swiss airlines makes Covid vaccination compulsory for pilots and cabin crew
A Swiss plane parked at Zurich airport. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland’s flagship carrier, Swiss airlines, will require all of its cabin crew and pilots to be vaccinated against Covid. 

The airline announced that it will introduce this rule from November 15th, “because of the regulations in force in various countries around the world, which increasingly require a compulsory vaccine for crews”.

The airline said it would become too difficult to organise crews on the basis of ground rules in respective countries. 

UPDATED: Who can travel to Switzerland right now?

“The different handling of vaccinated and unvaccinated crew members and the associated high complexity of operational planning would mean that orderly flight operations could no longer be ensured in the long term,” reads the press release. 

Hong Kong is the first destination in the Swiss network to require proof of vaccination for crews from certain countries, including for flights from Switzerland.

“It is important that we take measures now that allow us to preserve our global network while fulfilling our duty to protect our employees”, said the company’s CEO Dieter Vranckx.

Airlines have been one of the hardest hit industries as a result of the Covid pandemic. 

The decision has been understood by airline crews, who indicated they would have preferred the requirement remain voluntary. 

“This is a decision that is lawful and anchored in the GAV,” says Sandrine Nikolic-Fuss to Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes

“We would have liked the vaccination to remain voluntary, but we can understand that it would not have been possible in many countries because of its applicability.”

While some pilots have indicated they would have preferred to be consulted on the issue, the pilot union was similarly understanding. 

UPDATED: Can you be fired in Switzerland if you refuse the Covid-19 vaccine?

“We would have liked to have talked to us beforehand about the consequences for employees who do not want or cannot be vaccinated. You don’t know what to expect now,” said Henning Hoffmann, managing director of the Aeropers pilots’ association. 

While we feel vaccination “should remain voluntary in principle, but the decision is understandable in view of the restrictions in many countries.”

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For members


SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The Swiss pilots’ union could go on strike during Switzerland’s busy autumn holiday period.

SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The union, Aeropers, which has been negotiating salary increases and improved working conditions with Switzerland’s national airline, has rejected the carrier’s latest collective labour agreement (CLA) and is threatening to go on strike.

The  (CLA) is a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers or employer organisations. Generally speaking, they cover a minimum wage for each type of work; regulations relating to work hours; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

READ MORE : What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

The pilots said they would cease flying on October 17th, which falls in the middle of school holidays in a number of cantons — the period when many families holiday abroad.

“SWISS has not sufficiently entered into the matter of the legitimate interests of its pilots”, Aeropers said, adding that if the airline doesn’t come up with a better offer, the union “will initiate the procedures for a strike”.

For its part, SWISS said in a press release that it offered its pilots 60 million francs more than on the previous CLA, but “Aeropers executive committee has rejected this latest offer as inadequate, and has made demands of its own totalling over 200 million”.

However, Aeropers head Thomas Steffen has denied SWISS’ claim saying the 200-million figure is “a fantasy number” that has no basis whatsoever. According to Steffen, the pilots’ demand was “significantly less than half of this sum”.

He went on to accuse the airline of “propaganda” at the detriment of its employees”.

He added that the strike would me a last-resort measure if the dispute on pay, which has been going on for a year, is not resolved within a month.

“We’ve negotiated for a year and made sure that our members are level-headed and fly safely and reliably, despite being without a contract,” Steffen said.

If the SWISS cockpit staff, which also includes its sister airline, Edelweiss, does go on strike, it will be the latest labour dispute in Europe’s aviation, which includes a strike by Lufthansa ground crew, which impacted Switzerland over the summer.

However, strikes by Swiss workers is relatively uncommon compared to other countries.

READ MORE: Why are strikes so rare in Switzerland?