An Australian tourist has lashed out at Qantas’ low-cost subsidiary Jetstar after the airline gave him travel advice so wrong that it landed him in a ‘filthy’ Singaporian immigration detention cell for 40 hours and now means he is banned from ever travelling to Singapore again.
The major blunder occurred earlier this year when Richard Grant flew with Jetstar from Darwin to Thailand via a transit stop in Singapore for a long overdue holiday.
Grant was refused entry to Thailand because he didn’t have a negative COVID-19 PCR test and sent back to Singapore where immigration officials threw him into detention while they sorted out his case, he told 2GB radio.
The hapless tourist blames Jetstar for the travel horror story because he specifically asked the airline whether he needed a PCR test to enter Thailand and he claims an agent told him one wouldn’t be necessary.
The confusion arose because Grant had recovered from a COVID-19 infection several weeks before his trip and he was concerned he might test positive so soon after his recovery.
Jetstar told Grant that a certificate of recovery would be fine so he obtained one from his doctor and cancelled a PCR test that he had already booked for his trip.
While in detention in Singapore, Grant reached out to Jetstar via its Facebook Messenger app but the automated reply told him a human wouldn’t get in contact for 15-days.
“I need help now,” Grant replied to the chatbot. “You can’t be serious,” he continued before Jetstar terminated the chat.
Jetstar has since offered to refund Grant the cost of his airfare, but the airline has been unable to offer any help to get his immigration restrictions lifted.
In a statement, the airline noted: “We appreciate the seriousness of this situation and are investigating it as a matter of urgency.”
Airlines are expected to check and validate that passengers have the correct documentation before allowing them to travel but constantly changing pandemic travel rules did put a lot of pressure on carriers and mistakes were occasionally made.
Most airlines use third-party tools like the Timatic system developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Timatic is normally updated with 200 rule changes every single day, and immigration experts work 24 hours a day making sure the system is updated in real-time.
Even so, there were times during the pandemic when airlines refused boarding to passengers because they were using outdated rules.
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.