Aviation

Airline staff “incredibly fearful” about operating repatriation flights

Qantas will reportedly recruit cabin crew staff from a New Zealand subsidiary, after a call for Australian volunteers for scheduled repatriation flights failed.

Qantas and Virgin Australia are preparing to resume government-subsidised flights to Los Angeles, London, Auckland, and Hong Kong later this week to rescue Australians trapped overseas.

However, a report by The Guardian has revealed Qantas has failed to secure “sufficient” volunteers in Australia to operate the flights, with the carrier now looking to fill the gap from its New Zealand subsidiary.

The Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) explained to the outlet that talks with Qantas had broken down after the union accused the carrier of attempting to walk away from key consultation mechanisms in its enterprise agreement.

These included ensuring that the union was involved in decisions about the flights beyond the current four-week timeframe, according to The Guardian.

In addition, the reluctance to operate these flights also reportedly stems from anxiety by Qantas staff of catching COVID-19 on board.

See more: Qantas to stand down two-thirds of its entire workforce until end of May

FAAA vice president Bruce Roberts told the outlet his members were “incredibly fearful” and that they had rung in tears after receiving a positive diagnosis.

Travel Weekly has contacted both the FAAA and Qantas for comment.

It comes amid the news that 11 Qantas staff have now been infected by COVID-19 after operating a flight to evacuate Australians from Peru.

However, in separate reports, Qantas has insisted there are no confirmed cases of transmission of COVID-19 to employees or customers on board its aircraft or any aircraft globally.

The airline believes that, based on current evidence, transmission is unlikely, but has nevertheless put in place enhanced cleaning procedures.

As part of the rules for airline crew operating flights on the newly established International Aviation Network, set up by the federal government to bring trapped Australians home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas and Virgin staff are not required to self-isolate or quarantine.

This exemption, according to Qantas’ chief medical officer, Dr Ian Hosegood, is critical to help stranded Australians get home safely.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which is the key health decision-making body during the COVID-19 pandemic, issued the airline crew exemption.

However, it said it is up to states and territories to enforce quarantine rules and that they can also “implement additional requirements at the point of arrival”.

The quarantine exemption will reportedly be examined as the government reviews potential vectors for transmission of COVID-19 into the broader Australian community.

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