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MONTREALThe peak body representing the world's airlines has distanced itself from Qantas' compulsory vaccination stance, saying the policy is a "bit premature" and that testing was more critical than vaccines.

The CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac, was speaking in Geneva following the association's annual general meeting, which called on governments to end quarantine and border bans and replace them with testing.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce grounded the airline's international fleet when the Australian government closed the border and banned citizens from leaving unless they obtained a government-approved exemption. However, the airline is operating a handful of repatriation flights underwritten by the federal government.

Qantas - which is a member of IATA - is not expected to restart long-haul international passenger flights until at least mid-2021 leaving foreign state-backed airlines including Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates to continue commercial operations that are limited to around 30 people per flight.

Joyce told A Current Affair this week that passengers would be required to be vaccinated in order to fly.

"We will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft... for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country we think that's a necessity," Joyce said.

Qantas did not respond when asked for details of when the rule would come into effect, how it would be policed and whether there would be any exemptions.

The Australian government says it will not be compulsory to be vaccinated but Qantas believes it will be an inevitable requirement for anyone leaving and entering the country.

There are currently three vaccines poised for approval - two of which Australia has secured supplied - although any mass roll-out of the jabs is not expected until March.

When asked by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age if other airlines would copy Qantas' stance, IATA's CEO Alexandre de Juniac said the subject was a "bit premature".

"For the moment, we have had this very good news on the vaccine but it is a bit premature to say when and how the vaccination progress will be spread all around the world and the whole world will be done," de Juniac said.

"What we think is the emergency now is to implement the testing process.#

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