The NSW Government added air transportation staff to its list of critical workers as the long queues plaguing Sydney Airport continue and have Melbourne travellers bracing for long wait times.
The updated status of air transportation staff means they are exempt from self-isolation rules if they become a household contact.
The changes were made to the Public Health Order on Friday and mean that air transportation staff who become close contacts no longer have to isolate for seven days and can return to work if they have no symptoms.
Workers with this kind of exemption need to travel directly from their homes to their place of work and wear a mask throughout their shift.
The workers must also undergo frequent Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) for seven days.
According to the ABC, a NSW Health spokesperson said the exemption applies to air transport services as their absence could pose a high risk of disruption to its staff, including pilots, baggage handlers, flights attendants and security staff.
Workers who test positive or develop symptoms must self-isolate at home and mustn’t return to work until clear of symptoms or the virus itself.
This update is due to the hour’s long queues that have been plaguing Aussies airports this past week.
Geoff Culbert, Sydney Airport’s CEO, apologised for the inconvenience and described the long wait times as a “perfect storm” of traffic numbers picking up, inexperienced travellers, and the now-gone close-contact rules leading to staff shortages.
Because of this, Victorians who are planning to travel interstate have been warned to expect airport delays and long wait times.
Travellers have been particularly warned about Qantas, as heightened passenger volumes are expected to clash with a lack of baggage handlers.
Melbourne Airport is operating at 107 per cent capacity compared to April 2019, in part due to the Grand Prix held over the weekend, and passengers have been warned to arrive two hours early.
“[Friday was] the busiest day at Melbourne Airport in more than two years,” a Melbourne Airport spokesperson said to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We expect a number of similar days over the coming few weeks.”
These warnings are in anticipation of the Easter weekend, with Qantas, JetStar, and Virgin Australia set to experience their busiest times since before the pandemic.
Virgin Australia issued a similar warning about lengthy wait times.
“The sudden increase in travellers and workforce challenges related to the pandemic will likely lead to travellers experiencing longer than usual queues,” the airline said.
“Follow the advice of airports and arrive two hours ahead of scheduled departure, and use online check-in.”
The delays and long wait times are expected to ease once the airports get through the school holiday peak, according to a Sydney Airport spokesperson.
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