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International crew going hungry in overnight hotels

written by Adam Thorn | March 27, 2021
Singapore Airlines A350-941 at YMML (Victor Pody)

The industry body representing international airlines has said new quarantine arrangements for crew staying overnight in Australia are “chaotic” and lead to staff arriving in hotels without being able to eat a meal.

The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) has also hinted that these “operational challenges” along with “spiralling costs” meant airlines may soon pull out of flights repatriating Australians.

It comes after NSW, and many other states, changed the rules in January to ask international crews to quarantine at state-managed hotels and take a COVID test at the airport. Previously, airlines could organise their own transport and accommodation, so long as the details were shared with authorities.

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The rules for international crew were introduced following NSW Police fining 13 crew members $1,000 each for allegedly visiting local businesses.

In a new statement, BARA said that while it understands the importance of Australia’s COVID measures, the implementation of quarantine has led to “chaotic outcomes” for airlines, passengers and staff.

“BARA has seen a number of concerns raised over the strain it is causing on the mental health and wellbeing of staff involved in hotel quarantine,” the organisation said.

“At an operational level, airlines continue to raise issues of concern over the organisation and delivery of arrangements for aircrew. They include delays at the airport and late arrival at hotels, with the hotel operator at times then unable to provide meals.

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“The efficiency of safe aircraft operations must be supported by properly rested aircrew, basic dietary provisions and efficient travel to and from the airport to the crew hotels.

“When crew testing was introduced, it created problems for airlines because of the lack of clear guidance over what a state health authority would do to an airline crew member who tested positive for COVID-19 in Australia. BARA continues to see reports of a lack of adequate testing capacity at airports, leading to ongoing delays and problems for all staff involved in hotel quarantine.

“A holistic approach to supporting the commercial viability of a minimum network of flights and the wellbeing of staff is needed, as industry participants face what is one of the most difficult periods of the pandemic to date.”

BARA also hinted that increasingly difficult conditions, exacerbated by arrival caps that limit the number of passengers allowed on incoming flights, meant many are threatening to stop flying.

“A number of members have told BARA they cannot be expected to keep operating passenger flights under such poor commercial and operational conditions,” it said.

“The Australian and state governments need to decide whether they want to maintain a minimum international network and level of commercial viability for airlines.”

It continued that many costs incurred by airlines are charged on aircraft weight and distance travelled, meaning that effective per-passengers costs have increased by up to 600 per cent.

“Large backlogs of costs are mounting across the airports, with delays in travel bubbles continuing to suppress available passenger volumes to recover incurred costs. Members have reported to BARA that a number of airport operators have provided some relief on staff office and passenger lounge rents, which is appreciated,” BARA said.

“However, they also report that one airport operator has consistently sought rent increases of between 10-40 per cent, which highlights the differences in attitude to international airlines. With state governments now providing crew quarantine hotels and transport, any passed through costs are often much higher compared to that previously negotiated directly by airlines.

“This highlights how many cost increases are outside the control of airlines, and an assumption that these costs will be borne by airlines.”

In November, BARA said most airlines stopped selling tickets to stranded Australians “months ago” due to the country’s international arrival caps.

The organisation added that official waiting lists don’t tell the whole picture of how many Australians are stranded abroad. It has previously estimated the actual figure to be as high as 100,000.

NSW is currently taking the vast bulk of returned citizens, with Sydney quarantine hotels now accepting 3,000 entrants per week. The next highest is Queensland, taking 1,000.

The developments come after Australia’s arrival caps in February returned to their previously higher December 2020 levels, which were cut at the start of 2021 following a second COVID cluster in Sydney.

The January temporary cuts formed part of the biggest overhaul of the quarantine program since its inception, and also included a provision for passengers to wear masks on all domestic and international flights; for hotel staff to be tested daily and for ex-pats to require a negative result before boarding a repatriation flight.

Arrival caps were introduced in July and sat at 4,000, before increasing to 6,500 at the end of 2020 and then decreasing to just over 4,000 in January 2021.

This week Victoria also confirmed it would restart its program, and will initially accept 800 passengers a week.

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8 Comments

  • RicC

    says:

    My sympathy reservoirs have dried up. Too many people stayed overseas when they were told what a pandemic was and how bad it would be.

    And as for the airlines, they seemed to have ploughed on for years as if there was no risk of pandemic, no preparation for one, no thought to what they would have to do.

    Some of what governments and air industry people are now doing were obvious at the time – you could have used airport hotels as staging areas -stay in the hotel till you test negative BEFORE you embark, and stay at one at the other end again till you test negative. Would not have eliminated transmission but significantly reduced it and could have been implemented back in November 2019 with Wuhan.

    This would not have prevented a huge dent in international aviation, but would have allowed a reasonable amount of flying to have continued. Instead, the international aviation industry, with barely a whimper or protest, stood by while different countries around the world pursued different incompatible approaches. Even in the EU they couldn’t get any agreement. Pathetic.

  • Typical Australia 🇦🇺 attitudes. Let’s see how much blood we can get before they faint

  • Carmel

    says:

    If the airlines stop bringing in passengers it will be a good thing for genuine Australians both for health and finances. Last night on TV there were arrogant people saying they will never pay their quarantine hotel bills. I cannot understand why the govt let these people on the planes without having prepaid their hotel bill but I also cannot comprehend the extreme arrogance when they were not forced to take a trip o’seas so why should hard working Australians who have never ever had the luxury of o’seas travel be forced to work to pay for these scumbags.

  • Sam Point

    says:

    The accommodation restrictions that are being complained about are the result of not only that on 13 person South American crew deciding they had the right to leave their lodgings where they were supposed to isolate, many other members of aircrews were found to be non compliant. Visiting restaurants for meals and going sightseeing.
    They were not exempt from quarantine rules, just given the benefit of not being supervised in mandatory isolation. Gone are the days of airlines owning “Crew Lodgings” in overseas countries like they used to, but being restricted to an isolation hotel is better than having to carry 2 full crews and not leave the aircraft, which is what was done with Chinese air freight crews during the height of the outbreak in 2020.

  • Sam Point

    says:

    Oh and as for aircrews going hungry, why aren’t the airlines ground services ordering the meals to be available and delivered once aircrew departs the aircraft allowing for travel time on crew buses to the isolation hotel?
    This would be a standard thing to do with inwards crew and not having to rely on the crew arriving at the hotel and having to order it themselves! Much like the pre ordered meals on aircraft. They have crew roster and operations staff on the ground in country who can do the job as long as not too many crew are prima Donna’s when it comes to meals.

  • Bart Thomsett

    says:

    The crew may well complain..however the health of a whole nation is more important than diseased crew from infected countries bounce in and out. Meals should ofcourse be provided. But security is paramount. They are only here a couple days then off again. No need to complain.

  • Kym Jerome

    says:

    What a mess. For heavens sake!! You are all highly paid elected or appointed professionals. Request expressions of interest in every town where accommodation is required. Send responders the various flight, times days and numbers and meals required for those in quarantine. Meet with these people by video link with government and airline officials and sort it. Get the staff arriving to contact the supplier and advise on any alergies or maybe medications or personal needs. Engage a runner to go get if needed. Difficult times but it’s ‘Not rocket science’ just simple logic .

  • Jannette Naiken

    says:

    This whole thing is going frpm the blind to the ridiculous. Even an Australian citizen who wantscto return home to visit her elderly Father and Mother can’t return even tjought she has already been Vaccinated, she still must quarantine for 14 days in a Hotel.
    Not once has there been any changes to the quarantine rules to accommodate those who have and are responsible in order to comply. Why the hell bother with a Vaccination jab if you still must pay for 14 days quarantine?. To me this is all absolute Bullshit!
    There is no Pandemic what so ever and yet we must comply to the powers of Big Pharma whilst they m aake trillions on a Vaccine that IS NOT A VACCINE!

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