Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
Australian flag carrier Qantas has been forced to directly respond to criticism that its pilots and cabin crew are exempt from a 14-day quarantine that applies to all other Australians arriving in the country after 11 of its crew members on just one flight tested positive for COVID-19. Australia has required all new arrivals to enter a 14-day quarantine since March 16 and now forces repatriated Aussies to undergo their isolation in a hotel to stop people breaking the rules.
The crew members were operating on a repatriation flight from Santiago, Chile but were not required to go into hotel quarantine or self-isolate at home under a special exemption from the Federal government. Four of the cabin crew working the flight home, plus one pilot subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 after showing symptoms of the novel Coronavirus.
A further five cabin crew who were deadheading on the flight also tested positive, as did a Qantas engineer who was required to go into quarantine. At least 50 Qantas and Jetstar employees have now tested positive for COVID-19, including a cluster of groundworkers in Adelaide.
Qantas, however, says “there’s been no confirmed cases of transmission of the Coronavirus to employees or customers” onboard any of its aircraft and insists the “evidence from this outbreak and previous outbreaks of respiratory illnesses suggests that the risk of inflight transmission is low.”
The airline maintains that it’s absolutely essential that crew members remain exempt from the quarantine order in order to allow repatriation flights to continue.
Qantas Group Medical Director, Dr Ian Hosegood says clear guidelines have already been issued to protect crew and “enhanced measures” have been introduced to reduce the risk further. Dr Hosegood said that most cases of COVID-19 cases amongst crew had occurred during international layovers where social distancing measures hadn’t been implemented.
“The crew from the Santiago (cluster) almost certainly contracted it while on the ground there,” Dr Hosegood said, while the Adelaide cases can be traced back to one worker who had been on holiday overseas.
Qantas now requires its crew on international trips to remain in their hotel rooms for the duration of the layover. Other unspecified social distancing measures have also been introduced claims the airline. Masks and gloves are also available for all crew members who wish to wear them, although it isn’t mandatory to wear the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Like many airlines, Qantas says that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on a plane remains low. High-performance air filters refresh the cabin air every two to three minutes, while all ‘high touch’ surfaces are disinfected between every flight.
Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.