Qantas: Unions push for standard quarantine for flight crew. Qantas resists
Flight crews are currently granted an exemption on the advice of Australians chief medical officer from the mandatory 14-day quarantine detention in capital city hotels that is required of other Australians returning from overseas during this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s all OK, until some 37 Qantas flight cabin crew were diagnosed with the virus, and reportedly passed it onto 4 of their family members.
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Qantas argues that none of the infections occurred on their aircraft (how can they know this?), but occurred when crew were staying in countries that have less stringent isolation regimes than Australia. I am possibly exhibiting issue blindness here, but why does that even matter?
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. That includes instances where someone unwittingly travelled on one of our flights while infected with Coronavirus, based on our discussions with health authorities.Qantas ‘Facts on coronavirus and crew’, 8 April 2020
From a public point of view, it doesn’t matter how they are catching it, on the ground or in the air. The salient fact here is that they are bringing it back to Australia, where it has the potential to infect others.
Qantas also argue that cabin crew are not at high risk of catching the virus while they fly.
Ahem, I currently interact with one person on a daily basis, and with one or two other people while buying food, and obeying social distancing every other day. Cabin crew are interacting with 300 odd customers and crew, for 8 hours plus in an enclosed space. Spot the difference.
The ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Union) and the FAAA (Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia) have called on Australia’s chief medical officer to remove the exemption for flight crew and treat them the same as any other Australian returning from overseas. That is, they need to go into 14 days of quarantine detention (‘detention’ is my word. I like to call a spade a shovel).
Both the FAA and the peak union body, the ACTU have described the exemption for crew as ‘unacceptable’, and I agree, in case that wasn’t obvioous.
I cannot for the life of me see why cabin crew shouldn’t be treated the same as any other overseas traveller at the moment, and subject to 14 days quarantine detention on return from overseas, paid for by Qantas, or the government. I really don’t care.
The only reason I can see that this is not being adopted by Qantas is that it would substantially increase the costs of them maintaining flights because they would need to roster staff with 14 days on the ground in between flights, (arguably at both origin and destination) and presumably being paid salary and whatever penalties would accrue. Yes, it would be a scheduling nightmare, but these are strange times!
Now, I can sympathise with both Qantas and the serving crew. With Qantas, because lord knows the difficulty they will have rostering compliant staff to such a regime; and with the crew, because who would want to spend roughly two weeks out of three, or indeed 4 weeks out of nearly 6 (if they were quarantined at both ends of the flight) in quarantine detention every time you fly overseas.