Do airline crew such as flight attendants and pilots have to be vaccinated?

Do flight attendants have to be vaccinated?

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the focus on vaccination policies within the airline industry has significantly increased. However, it’s important to note that vaccination requirements for cabin crew and pilots are not a novel concept spurred by the pandemic.

For many years, various airlines have mandated certain vaccinations for their flight attendants and pilots, mostly in response to global health threats and in alignment with international health regulations.

In this article, we will have a look at why flight attendants typically have to be vaccinated. We will also explore what mandatory vaccinations airline crew are required to have, and look at if there are any airlines where pilots and cabin crew don’t have to be vaccinated?

The short answer: Do flight attendants have to be vaccinated?

Most flight attendants are indeed required to be vaccinated, a mandate that precedes the Covid-19 pandemic. The airline industry has long enforced vaccination policies for their cabin crew and pilots to protect against global health threats and to adhere to international health regulations.

Individual airline policies on vaccination differ, but among the necessary immunisations, the Yellow Fever vaccine is one of the most prevalent. The advent of Covid-19 has heightened the focus on these policies, but the practice of requiring airline crew to have vaccinations, like Yellow Fever, is an established norm in the industry.

Passport and international certificate of vaccination

Why Yellow Fever Vaccination is Mandatory for flight attendants 

Yellow Fever, is a mosquito-borne viral disease prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa, and poses a significant risk for travellers to these regions. The disease can be severe, leading to serious illness or even death. So, because of this potential severity, it’s common to want a Yellow Fever vaccination before travelling to these areas.

But there are plenty of lethal diseases that flight attendants and pilots will encounter on their travels — and they aren’t mandatory. So, why is yellow fever unique in being one of the most commonly mandated vaccinations by airlines?  

Unlike most other vaccines, the Yellow Fever vaccine is not only a medical necessity but also a legal requirement for entry into numerous countries.

This primarily includes nations in Africa and South America, where Yellow Fever is endemic.

International Health Regulations stipulate that travellers, including flight crew members, must present proof of Yellow Fever vaccination when entering these countries.

This is an effort to prevent the importation and spread of the virus.

Yellow fever vaccination certificate

International yellow fever vaccine certificate

Airlines must comply with these regulations to maintain their international operations. Therefore, they mandate the Yellow Fever vaccine for their crew members. This requirement ensures that their staff can freely move between countries without legal hindrance and are protected against potential exposure to the virus.

In essence, the requirement for Yellow Fever vaccination among airline crew is a practical response to both global health concerns and international legal requirements. It illustrates the unique challenges that airlines face in ensuring the health and safety of their staff while also adhering to international travel regulations.

What about Covid-19?

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a significant shift and renewed focus on vaccination policies in airlines globally.

As the world grapples with the novel coronavirus, many airlines have implemented strict Covid-19 vaccination policies to ensure the safety of their crew and passengers.

However, these policies vary considerably from one airline to another and often depend on the country’s national policies and public health guidelines…

Covid-19 injection only vaccine

Airlines have to balance several considerations when deciding on their Covid-19 vaccination policies. These considerations include crew and passenger safety, operational stability, local and international travel regulations, and the ethical implications of mandating a vaccine.

Can you be cabin crew without being vaccinated?

Yes, if you are desperate to become cabin crew, and you would rather not be vaccinated, it is possible, but it may limit your career slightly.

  • Generally, for international airlines, some vaccinations are almost a must due to global health rules.
  • Some airlines have blanket rules, for example, European airline British Airways has many routes to Africa and therefore mandates yellow fever vaccinations for all longhaul flight attendants regardless of where they operate.
  • Others have more nuanced rules, at American carrier United Airlines, only flight attendants based in Washington are mandated to have yellow fever jabs because routes to Ghana only operated from IAD airport.

However, for short-haul airlines — those that fly only domestically or within regions not affected by diseases like Yellow Fever — the rules can be a bit more relaxed.

With the Covid-19 situation, it’s a mixed bag. Many airlines, big or small, are leaning towards having their crews vaccinated. However, following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the vaccine mandate, it’s likely that US domestic carriers won’t need to legally require any vaccinations.

In a nutshell, if you’re dreaming of life in the skies, it’s a good idea to be ready for vaccinations. While it’s not impossible to become a cabin crew member without vaccinations, it’s becoming less likely.


The Covid-19 pandemic has put airline vaccination policies under the spotlight, and has led to a broader discussion on the topic

However, vaccination policies in the airline industry are not a new development. In many parts of the industry, mandatory vaccinations for flight attendants and pilots have existed for years.

Firstly, to protect the crew, passengers, and the broader population from the potential spread of infectious diseases like rabies. Secondly, because some countries legally require flight attendants and passengers to have vaccinations such as Yellow Fever, to enter the country.

While the specific policies vary based on the disease in question and the nature of the global health threat, it’s evident that such regulations are a crucial aspect of the airline industry.

Some flight attendants and pilots that operate “shorthaul” flights in localised portions of the world may be able to continue their jobs without receiving any vaccinations. However, most longhaul flight attendants and pilots will be asked to become vaccinated at some point during their career.

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Flyingbynumber’s Resident Senior Flight Attendant — Alissa

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