australian aviation logo

Qantas crew must not leave hotel rooms during 24-hour layovers

written by Adam Thorn | April 9, 2020

Credit: Seth Jaworski

Qantas has now told its cabin crew they must not leave their hotel rooms during 24-hour layovers, Australian Aviation can reveal.

The news comes after it was revealed that 11 Qantas crew members who worked on a flight from Chile to Sydney, but didn’t undertake two-week hotel quarantine after returning home, subsequently tested positive for coronavirus. Altogether, 50 Qantas Group staff have now been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 11 Adelaide Airport baggage handlers.

The discrepancy in rules, which means passengers must isolate after landing in Australia but airline crew don’t, emerged because the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, a major decision-making body during the pandemic, issued an exemption.

Responding to criticism in a statement to the media titled “Facts on coronavirus and crew”, Qantas argued, “There’s been no confirmed cases of transmission of the coronavirus to employees or customers on board our aircraft, or any aircraft globally”.

That statement is likely to prove controversial after the Australian government signalled a large proportion of cases originated from overseas, and the previously close proximity of passengers sitting together in aircraft.


On 23 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison effectively banned anyone from leaving the country, except for a few specific exemptions, to stop the spread of the pandemic.

The statement also claims infections have predominately occurred in overseas cities not practising social distancing; that all crew are now provided with masks, gloves and PPE; and that cases are almost all from community transmission overseas.

In a question titled “Can customers have confidence that they will not contact the virus when flying on Qantas?”, the airline responds, “The evidence from this outbreak and previous outbreaks of respiratory illnesses suggests that the risk of inflight transmission is low.”

It also added that “the configuration of the cabin seems to also help reduce the risk”.

Qantas medical director Dr Ian Hosegood said earlier this week, “Whilst our crew have followed all Australian and other government advice when they are overseas, in some destinations the local community spread had been underestimated by local health officials.

“For example, previously crew were allowed to interact within hotels, and we suspect that’s how a number of crew contracted the virus in Santiago.”

The Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine said, “Qantas has shown a frightening disregard for worker safety since the outbreak of this virus. It has operated a business-as-usual response, refusing to hear workers’ concerns about the lack of information, consultation, training and protective gear.

“The TWU has consistently raised concerns about cabin crew, aircraft cleaners, baggage handlers and other workers not being given protections they need. Now over 50 Qantas workers have been infected and we believe Qantas has serious questions to answer.”

The union said it has made a “legal request” to Qantas seeking copies of hazard management plans to minimise the risk of infection.

In early March, the NSW workplace safety authority said that Qantas’ cleaning standards are so poor they could put passengers and staff at risk of catching COVID-19.

An inspection note obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald noted how cleaners were wiping tray tables without disinfectant and performing tasks such as handling soiled nappies and dirty tissues without wearing “protective equipment” for “the majority of these tasks”.

SafeWork NSW issued Qantas with an “improvement notice” and ordered the airline to develop a new system specifically to deal with COVID-19.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

Comments (12)

  • Jeffrey Kaye


    My understanding is that the crew 14 day isolation exemption applies only in the case where they join another international flight within that 14 day period and that they are expected to isolate up until they depart. If they are returning to their home port they are required to self isolate for the entire 14 day period if they have no work in the interim. There is no blanket exemption.

  • Vic Haseloff


    It does not make sense that the crew does not have to take the 14 day quarantine on arrival back in Australia. How many issues have we already have from passengers arriving into the country?

  • Greg


    Typical alan joyce making money and ripping out his enormous salary is his only concern

  • Doug Green


    Sounds like a minority of deluded QF employees think they’re immune and the rules don’t apply to them. No problem – just blame the employer and hopefully deflect attention from their stupidity and lack of social consideration.

    • A J


      With due respect, you do seem to be green behind your ears for sure. For past months Qantas crew have been raising the issue and trying to get their voice heard but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

      It’s very easy to pass negative comments,( just blame the employer to deflect attention ) and though you are entitled to your own views, in this case for someone in the know, its like being spat on by the very people to whom you are an essential worker, who is also trying to make a daily living.

    • Paul


      We are not deluded in any way. We follow the rules imposed as they are now. As a crew member I get to see the questioning as of why we are not made to stay inside for 14 days. So what we do is self isolate. In many hotels prior to shot down many of our hotels enforced staying in our rooms and made checks on us
      Yes at the moment we can leave when home for food and medical etc like you
      Unless you are able to access company and crew and union information your being ignorant and deluded yourself

  • Linda Weaving


    Surprise surprise. Aviation emoyees aren’t immune to coronavirus. ?
    What git came up with the idea of exempting airline staff from quarantining?
    It was always going to lead to this.
    Whoever they are, they have blood on their hands.
    As do Qantas.
    If Qantas cared about their staff or their country they would have shut down international operations as soon as the outbreak started.
    It’s not like they would collapse. Their biggest cashcow is Sydney-Melbourne, after all.

  • TD


    Qantas Princesses now…..and on how many aircraft or mixed crews….has potential like the Ruby Princess.
    Interesting part for aircrew will be getting the all clear from CASA as the recovery aspects ( including the physical and mental capabilities) haven’t been tested in a decompression chamber or a sim or both!

  • Red Cee


    If arm chair critics looked at the overall situation, they would know that the Australian Government set the rules, in that international air crew didn’t have to self isolate. All the staff were doing, was following the rules laid down. Where they could have done better, was take care while they were overseas.

  • MB


    If you would only know how Qantas treats the air crew then you would make such comments as if the air crew are to blame. No Australian based crew willing to crew flights so what does Qantas do, fly over their NZ based crew to train them up on the 787 so that they can crew the flights. Yes the Australian Government set the rules, but the airlines are the ones ultimately responsible for crew safety. NOT the Australian government.

    • TWC


      Absolutely correct, MB.

  • TJ Munt


    The “legal” exemption of airline crew is purely based upon a monetary basis; to allow airlines to utilise their crew more than once a fortnight!
    I (and most of my colleagues) DID self-isolate on a “moral” basis to protect our loved ones and society in general.
    Police were still (incorrectly) visiting crew homes to check that we were following isolation rules, even though we ‘legally’ didn’t need to, but again we were so as to be safe…
    Airlines are fooling themselves in declaring that the virus has not been spread aboard any flights, in order to try and protect themselves from Workers’ Compensation claims.
    Shameful corporate behaviour with a pure focus on money, not care.

Comments are closed.

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.