At least 230 Australian’s booked on a specially chartered repatriation flight from London to Darwin have been hit by a data breach after consular officials accidentally sent the full flight manifest, including sensitive personal details, to the wrong email address.
The Department of Home Affairs and Trade confirmed the data breach and said it had already been in contact with the passengers who are due to depart London Heathrow airport on Saturday morning. The Qantas operated flight will arrive in Darwin around 16 hours and 25 minutes later where the passengers will spend the next 14-days in mandatory hotel quarantine.
The email was sent to the wrong “consular client” by mistake and has since been deleted according to the Dfat. A spokesperson did not disclose the client who the data had been sent to or whether it had been able to verify that the data had been permanently deleted and could not be accessed.
The email included the following details of passengers booked on the repatriation flight: full name, gender, date of birth, email address, passport details (number, expiry, issuing country), Australian citizenship status, phone number, current location, and flight booking reference.
In a statement, the Dfat said it took “immediate action to mitigate any impact resulting from the inadvertent sharing of a flight manifest”. The official desperately tried to recall the message within a minute of realising what they had done and then sent a separate email pleading with the “client” to immediately delete the email.
Embarrassingly, this is the fourth data breach involving the personal details of Australian’s due to be repatriated since August 2020. The department has promised an internal review who prevent similar occurrences in the future.
There are estimated to be more than 30,000 Australians stranded overseas because of strict caps on the number of new arrivals allowed to enter the country each week. Efforts to get Australians home were delivered a further blow on Thursday night when the UK banned direct flights from the United Arab Emirates which acts as a major connecting hub for onward flights to Australia.
Emirates said in response to the travel ban that it will cancel services between Dubai and the UK leaving Australian’s booked on Emirates flights in limbo. Etihad Airways, however, said it would continue to operate flights from the UK for onward connections to Australia. Etihad services from the UAE to the UK will not be allowed to carry passengers.
The Australian government said it “remained open” to organising more special repatriation charter flights to help Australians return home.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.