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Jetstar CEO blames NSW for COVID-19 screening blunder

written by Adam Thorn | July 9, 2020

A 2010 file image of Jetstar Airbus A320 VH-VQG. (Seth Jaworski)
A 2010 file image of Jetstar Airbus A320 VH-VQG. (Seth Jaworski)

Jetstar’s chief executive has pointed the finger at NSW for a blunder that saw 48 passengers from Melbourne leave Sydney Airport without a health screening on Tuesday.

Gareth Evans told reporters on Thursday, “There was not a NSW Health official in the aerobridge. They should have been. People should have held the aircraft. They didn’t. The passengers got off. We followed them up as quickly as possible.”

The move follows NSW closing its border to Victoria on Tuesday evening and the city of Melbourne reverting back to lockdown the following night.

Under current protocols, airlines are supposed to keep disembarking passengers at the gate lounge until they have been screened.

That currently involves a temperature and symptoms check as well as an interview asking customers whether they have been in a coronavirus hotspot during the past 14 days.


Anyone displaying cold or flu symptoms is then asked to take a full COVID-19 test.

Health officials did manage to speak to 89 of the passengers on flight JQ520, an A320-232 VH-VGZ, but 48 left the airport.

NSW Health said all but three of those had been found and only one person refused to be screened.

Evans, however, said the incident was a “completely different set of circumstances” to the Ruby Princess debacle because passengers were already tested in Melbourne and the Sydney procedures were simply a “double-check”.

However, he did hint there had been confusion due to the changing restrictions nationwide.

“As rules change and develop, sometimes these things break down,” Evans said. “Unfortunately, that happened and we followed up as quickly as we possibly could.”

On Wednesday, Australian Aviation reported that NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the apparent mix up occurred because the health team were tending to another flight.

“All those individuals [from the Jetstar flight] are known. We’re in the process of chasing them up. If anyone’s travelled in breach of any orders we will refer them to police and take the appropriate action if anyone is symptomatic,” Dr Chant said.

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Comments (4)

  • Peter Vears


    Inexcusable behaviour!
    Why didn t Jetstar take some responsibility even to check if it was ok to release the passengers…a simple check by the airline could save massive problems or don t they care just take the fares and offload the passengers as fast as possible.

  • Nicholas


    Not the smartest comment here. Simple logic determines that either JQ cabin crew or ground staff would be waiting for passengers and when they saw no health officials should have had the common sense to stop the disembarkation.

    Blaming others not a good look by JQ.

  • Thatcher


    Sounded to me like he was accepting shared blame. Me, I blame Jetstar – why let the passengers off the plane if the Health people haven’t arrived yet? Health were not far away, they caught most of the passengers in the terminal. Surely Jetstar management communicated the protocols to their own staff?
    A little bit of understanding to the pressure NSW Health staff are under please – NSW is doing all the “heavy lifting” with international arrivals – less than a third of the nation’s population, taking almost two thirds of all arriving passengers.
    coming into the country. Can you imagine what that means for Health staff at Sydney airport?

  • Linda Weaving


    Of course he did. As if an airline CEO would accept any responsibility for anything. A plane could crash and kill 200 people because of a dodgy repair job and he wouldn’t apologise. A bit like politicians. Flights shouldn’t be coming in from Melbourne during this outbreak anyway. Why aren’t lives more important than money?

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