Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
American Airlines was forced to cancel a scheduled passenger flight from Sydney to Los Angeles on Friday after the entire crew of flight attendants were forced into quarantine when one returned a “possible positive” COVID-19 test following routine surveillance testing.
Health officials in New South Wales ramped up their Coronavirus protocols for international flight attendants late last year following a series of embarrassing incidents involving foreign airlines. As a result, flight attendants are routinely tested before they are allowed to get on their plane home.
In one incident, a flight attendant is believed to have accidentally infected a hotel cleaner, while in another a group of flight attendants ignored isolation rules and left their hotel. Both incidents prompted massive public health responses in a country that has done exceptionally well in keeping the pandemic at bay.
American Airlines flight AA72 had to be cancelled on Friday after an initial COVID-19 test on one of the operating crew members came back as “possible positive”.
“The crew member was tested as part of routine surveillance. They are currently in special health accommodation,” NSW Health said in a statement. The other crew members are all considered close contacts and have been put into mandatory hotel quarantine.
“A secondary COVID test has been administered and we are awaiting the laboratory result,” a spokesperson for American Airlines explained as speculation mounted that the positive result could actually have been the result of a prior infection that the flight attendant had fully recovered from.
The risk of previously infected people returning a false positive result when they aren’t infectious is the reason why countries like the United States accept evidence of recent infection instead of a negative COVID-19 test.
“The well-being of our customers and team members is our top priority,” American said in an emailed statement. “All customers have been re-accommodated on tomorrow’s flight and have been provided with accommodations for the evening.”
International flight attendants must remain in hotel quarantine during their layovers in Sydney at hotels specially approved and guarded by the authorities. The usual quarantine period for close contacts is 14-days but American’s flight attendants currently in isolation might be allowed to leave earlier.
Some airlines have managed to get crew released before the end of the 14-day quarantine period by operating freight only flight with no passengers and only the crew onboard.
Emirates briefly halted its flights to Sydney following the introduction of the testing rules over fears that its crew and planes could be routinely stranded in Australia.
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.