Qantas Operates Rescue Flights to Australia, Crew to Be Paid During Self-Isolation

Crew infections did not happen onboard an aircraft

Qantas Operates Rescue Flights to Australia, Crew to Be Paid During Self-Isolation
A Qantas aircraft takes off from the international terminal of Sydney Airport on March 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

Over the next month, Qantas will be operating Australian government flights to rescue citizens stranded overseas. Cabin crew recruited for the mission crew will be paid a full month's wages—including time during mandatory self-isolation, which could take place in a hotel, also paid for by the airline.

This arrangement also includes paying for meals, a Qantas Group spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

The decision comes after the government implemented stricter controls for aircrew working on international flights on April 9.
It also comes amid criticism from unions that accused the airline of not looking after their employees infected with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

In addition, Qantas said it will pay the cabin crew for the 14 days of self-isolation should any of them contract COVID-19 or need to self-isolate after the month of repatriation flights.

This effectively covers any sick leave, said Qantas Group.

Stricter Controls

On April 9, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) provided recommendations to the National Cabinet for strict new controls for airline crew on international flights.

The new measures will further restrict the movement of passengers and crew, how crew and passengers are seated, the contact between crew and passengers, hygiene, and how social distancing is managed while the crew is accommodated at overseas destinations. The measures also require aircraft with particular ventilation systems to be used.

As per the recommendations, the flight crew of airlines is exempt from the mandatory self-isolation period of 14 days. The AHPPC says this allows them some semblance of normal life and keeps them happy to continue crewing such flights.

The AHPPC determined that aircrew are essential for ferrying Australians home from overseas as well as for crewing the air transport of essential items from overseas.

Union Criticism

Prior to this decision, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) criticised Qantas for not providing hotels for employees to self-isolate. This came after reports that about 50 Qantas crew had contracted COVID-19 and transmitted it to their families and flatmates.
On April 10, ACTU secretary Sally McManus posted on Twitter saying, "Qantas is not a part of Team Australia. Over 50 staff plus their families have #COVID19, Qantas will not provide sick leave or provide hotel rooms to self isolate to protect their families."

Crew Infections Did Not Occur Onboard

Qantas crew likely contracted COVID-19 while on the ground overseas in cities where social distancing rules were not in place, and not while onboard an aircraft, said Qantas Group Medical Officer Dr. Ian Hosegood in a statement released by the airline.

After about 50 Qantas Group employees tested positive for COVID-19 the airline was hit with criticism over health and safety issues. Qantas has defended its measures saying that their own tracing reveals that infections occurred while the crew was on the ground between flights.

The case of the cluster at Adelaide Airport, for example, was the result of a crew member who had been on holiday overseas and reported to work despite having symptoms.

“There’s been no confirmed cases of transmission of the Coronavirus to employees or customers on board our aircraft, or any aircraft globally for that matter," wrote Hosegood.

Despite describing inflight service as a low risk, Qantas has implemented stronger measures to protect employees while they are at work, including enhanced cleaning at airports and on aircraft, and providing personal protective equipment.