Health officials in Sydney, Australia have ordered American Airlines flight attendants to stop leaving tips for hotel staff and limo drivers over fears that they’ll infect locals with COVID-19 by leaving traces of the novel Coronavirus on paper notes.
Flight attendants caught breaking the rules have been told they face being thrown into 14-day quarantine.
American Airlines currently flies from Los Angeles to Sydney but the carrier has been forced to slash the number of passenger services to Australia because of a growing COVID-19 outbreak that has plunged Sydney into a hard lockdown and now also threatens Melbourne with tough pandemic control measures.
The outbreak started in mid-June when a Bondi limo driver who transports international flight crew was infected with the highly infectious Delta variant. The driver wasn’t vaccinated despite being eligible for a COVID-19 shot and wasn’t wearing a face mask and other personal protection equipment when he was infected.
Authorities have detected at least 864 cases since the limo driver tested positive on June 16. Local lawmakers initially tried to contain the outbreak through contact tracing and face mask rules but on Wednesday NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a lockdown would be extended through July 30.
“The New South Wales (NSW) Health and the NSW government have informed us that we are no longer allowed to collect money for tipping upon arrival or on our departures as we have done in the past for our transportation drivers, hotel staff and others,” a memo sent to LAX-based flight attendants on Monday explained.
“This restriction is due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Australia and the potential for exposing and spreading the virus with the exchange of money. If anyone is caught providing a tip, they will be subject to a 14-day quarantine in SYD.”
I know we all want to provide this tip, however, we simply cannot. Please just provide them with a warm smile and a thank you. I know you all understand and once we are able to start providing a tip again, I will let you know.”
Unlike in the United States, there isn’t a big tipping culture in Australia and service industry workers are unlikely to get upset about the lack of tips over the next few months.
American Airlines has been forced to convert eight passenger flights to Sydney into cargo-only services this month and a further 12 flights will only carry freight on the outbound flight next month after the weekly arrival cap on passengers was slashed to just 3,000.
A slew of other international carriers including Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Qatar Airways have also been forced to slash the number of passenger flights they operate to Australia due to the restrictions.
An estimated 34,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents are still waiting to return.
Photo Credit: Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock.co. TOTH: View from the Wing
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.