Mask up, don't mingle: new Qantas safety measures for passengers

Qantas' Fly Well program encompasses a range of health measures on the ground and in the air.

By David Flynn, May 19 2020
Mask up, don't mingle: new Qantas safety measures for passengers

Qantas and Jetstar passengers will be issued with masks to wear during the flight and asked to keep their distance from one another in lounges, during boarding and once on board, under a stringent set of measures in place from June 12.

The 'Fly Well' program rolls together a number of temporary measures which have already been used by Qantas Group, including on repatriation flights from virus hot-spots, with the airline saying it "represents a combination of best-practice medical advice and feedback from customers."

Qantas says the program will "give peace-of-mind in preparation for domestic travel restrictions easing."

"We’re relying on the cooperation of passengers to help make these changes work for everyone’s benefit, and we thank them in advance for that," explains Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

"Given the great job Australians have done at flattening the curve, we’re confident they’ll respond positively to these temporary changes to how we fly.

However, the program's June 12 start date shouldn't be read as meaning that Qantas airport lounges will re-open from June 12 – a Qantas spokesman tells Executive Traveller that its lounges will open their doors on a lounge-by-lounge basis as demand returns.

Here's a look at how your Qantas travel experience will change in the short term.

Pre-flight

Information on the Fly Well program will be sent to all customers ahead of their flight, so they know what to expect.

Contactless check-in using the Qantas app or online is being strongly encouraged, including self-serve bag drop and the use of Q Bag Tags.

Hygiene screens will be located at airline customer service desks "wherever practical", with hand sanitising stations will be located at all departure gates.

Check yourself in, then DIY bag drop – and don't forget the Q Bag Tag.
Check yourself in, then DIY bag drop – and don't forget the Q Bag Tag.

Changes to Qantas lounges

Physical distancing measures will be in place, although that's not likely to be a major issue in the early days of travel when there's expected to be far fewer passengers.

We're yet to learn if lounge seating will be re-arranged so as to encourage distancing, and if this in turn could mean stricter capacity limits imposed on lounges.

Once lounges re-open, social distancing will need to be observed.
Once lounges re-open, social distancing will need to be observed.

Hand sanitising stations will also be placed in the Qantas Club, Qantas Business and Chairman's Lounges.

The airline says there'll be "adjustments to food and drink service" – again, the details on this are yet to be shared.

Finally, staff will ensure "enhanced disinfection of surfaces".

On board Qantas and Jetstar flights

There'll be "sequenced" boarding and disembarkation to minimise crowding at departure gates and in the aisles

Masks will provided to all passengers on every flight: while not mandatory, "they are recommended to be worn in the interests of everyone’s peace-of-mind", the airline says

Although Qantas says all aircraft will be thoroughly cleaned between flights, passengers will also be given sanitising wipes so they can wipe down seat belts, trays and armrests for their own peace of mind.

Also read: Amenity kits are getting the PPE treatment for a post-pandemic world

Once on board, passengers will be asked to limit their movement around the cabin.

Travellers can also expect "simplified service and catering to minimise touchpoints for crew and passengers" – in other words, a limited meal and drinks service.

Enhanced cleaning of aircraft with a disinfectant effective against Coronaviruses, with a focus on high contact areas – seats, seatbelts, overhead lockers, air vents and toilets.

Middle seats won't be kept vacant

However, there are no plans to implement social distancing during the flight by blocking middle seats in economy.

"The data shows that actual risk of catching Coronavirus on an aircraft is already extremely low," suggests Qantas Group Medical Director Dr Ian Hosegood.

"That’s due to a combination of factors, including the cabin air filtration system, the fact people don’t sit face-to-face and the high backs of aircraft seats acting as a physical barrier."

“Social distancing on an aircraft isn’t practical the way it is on the ground, and given the low transmission risk on board, we don’t believe it’s necessary in order to be safe. The extra measures we’re putting place will reduce the risk even further."

 

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 152

I wonder if they will reduce the number of guests people can bring into lounges. That would be up to one guest less for gold and two for platinums - it could have a significant impact on lounge numbers to reduce crowding and allow social distancing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 314

Yet then they will put someone in the middle seat on a 737. Seems counter productive.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 339

So keep the middle seat in play but tell passengers to wear masks? Yeah, makes sense.

30 Apr 2020

Total posts 11

Common sense approach, resisted those alarmists who insisted middle seat be vacant. There is so much hysteria and misinformation out there about transmission that conclusion should be that we run all transport at half capacity. Its same problem we have with borders, I don't think any country closed its internal borders except Australia.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 549

George UK (Wales) parts of Germany (Hamburg) and Canada (Most northern provinces) have closed internal borders, not to mention China and Italy for a while. So more than just us.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 101

A lot of things you don't know but assume George. NZ closed it's internal borders (well it doesn't really have states, but there was a level 4 disease control measure imposed meaning you had to stay at home except to go to work or for essential purposes like grocery shopping). Domestic travel was banned and all flights grounded for several weeks, I think around 6 weeks in total.

Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, China and too many other countries to list here all stopped interprovincial/interstate travel except for essential purposes. Now these restrictions are being eased, but haven't fully been lifted (though in Vietnam you're now pretty free to travel domestically, except that you might still have to fill out a health form especially if using public transport such as aircraft or long-distance buses that cross provincial boundaries).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 247

So we should all start living on planes because they are Covid19 free zones apparently. It also makes one ask why health departments were chasing down passengers seated in a cubed zone near Covid19 passengers on aircraft and asking them to get tested and self quarantine, doesn't sound like they think it's without risk.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 549

The question is how many have been infected on a plane. I can't think of any unless Tom Hanks et al caught it on a plane but I suspect they wold say not likely.

Rxm
Rxm

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 35

Qantas is outlining a plan to minimise risk that works for their business. If you don't like it you can either chose not to fly or buy all the seats 2 rows in front 2 rows behind and the row you're in. Pretty simple really. Bottom line is no one has to fly if they don't feel comfortable.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 314

They should also be minimising risk to their customers. After all, safety is meant to come first.

Qantas

02 May 2016

Total posts 45

Blocking middle seats is to a large degree a PR stunt, you can't tell me those airlines that are blocking seats won't drop that policy like a hot potato once demand starts to ramp up. All QF are doing is saying they think the risk is low, they're being upfront about it, encouraging you to wear a mask and seems quite fair to me.

If you are seriously that concerned, it's very easy don't travel.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 101

Interesting that Qantas isn't forcing masks to be worn (unlike nearly all Asian airlines/countries) and an increasing number of European ones/US airlines but that's good. Agree about blocking the middle seat - but being imposed by several Asian countries right now (their airlines are not able to decide on this by themselves) will be dropped in a few weeks though...Vietnam has already dropped it.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 101

I said "forcing" well of course I meant requiring, but Asian countries are literally forcing airlines within their jurisdiction to strictly enforce mask wearing on all their flights. In fact, every Asian country other than Japan is doing this right now. Hence "forcing" is not too strong a word to use. Asian countries are showing just how autocratic they can be. Aussies beware...the freedoms we're used to back home, even the more limited ones during the current pandemic are all but gone in Asia at the moment. Think of Asia as paradise during the good times, but hell during a crisis.

07 Dec 2016

Total posts 31

What a sick joke are Qantas 'safety measures'. Of course their Chief Medical Officer will say whatever s/he is told too. I contracted a Novel virus H1N2 on a Qantas flight (it was not present at either departure or arrival location) , and the 'Qantas virus' is a well known phenomenon. Bring on Virgin Mk11 , for I have a family to protect and will NOT fly QF under these ridiculously risky conditioners. And BTW I have flown twice in Virgin J in May with a 1A -empty b and C -IK configuration ( ditto for Y). My State has closed borders and 6 deaths. NSW has 47 deaths , nearly half of the 100 deaths and nearly half of the cases. Thanks be there are some responsible Govts and responsible airlines.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 549

Merry good point but the literature suggests that the H1N1 transmission you received probably in 2009 was from a symptomatic (Coughing and spluttering) person nearby. I suspect the checks for flu symptoms was not as great then as 15% of those on the study flight had flu symptoms. The trick is to stop them at boarding and everyone wear masks, which is what is being proposed. Good luck with Virgin Mk2 having so few seats occupied; and yes I fully support state border closures until there is several weeks (28 days) of zero infections. The evidence from this last week is 14 days is not enough, but it is not being spread on planes.

Rxm
Rxm

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 35

No one is saying flying will be without risk but Qantas is saying these are the measures it can take within commercial reality, to help make travel safer. Now of course you could put safety first. And if you want air travel to be safe from the risk of coronavirus transmission then its simple - you just wouldn't fly. The people on here wanting empty middle seats and blaming the airlines for airborne infectious disease need a dose of reality. The world they envisage wont include air travel because all the airlines would be out of business and that includes virgin Mk 2. Really who is going to buy virgin and then fly planes half empty. Or are they suggesting the tax payer or shareholders should be subsidising their personal travel to allow airlines to operate a loss. Perhaps virgin is spacing people out so sparsely because no one is booking with an airline in administration and not because they are knocking people back so they can space everyone out.

20 May 2020

Total posts 1

Qantas promotes their cleaning and air filtration system as being the panacea for safe air travel. I have my doubts. Surely the real issue is sitting in a small enclosed space, in any class, and having people cough, sneeze and splutter in the immediate vicinity . Although certain individuals will undoubtedly object, every passenger must be forced by law to wear a mask on a plane to protect fellow travellers. From personal experience, the risk of catching some bug from air travel has always been very high.

30 Apr 2020

Total posts 11

Merry, I'm sure Qantas know more about 'safety measures' than you do. Sorry I do find it somewhat unbelievable that you contracted the H1N2 virus on a Qantas flight, do you have any documented proof or you just made it up. Sound like your're a Queenslander, sure live in your own cocoon, maybe you can explain to all fellow unemployed Queenslanders in the tourist industry that your aim is to eradicate the virus, not concerned about their livelihoods.

Might be a while you fly Virgin Mk11, you could ask your government to throw a few billion their way, 200M won't go far.

04 Dec 2019

Total posts 2

If you MUST fly, that is, you NEED to fly, then these are minimal precautions. I'd want to wear an aspirator (I have my own), hopefully they'd allow that too. I'd also bring on my own food and water. It's worth going an extra couple of steps if it reduces contacts with others.

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 42

This decisions is all about profit, there is no way every mask can ever be 100% effective, and the nonsence about the back of the seat being a barrier is an insult to our intelligence.

Bottom line is if you are sitting next to or in front of a coronavirus sufferer and they cough you are going to get infected.

This is exactly the same denial about cramped spaces and staying still in one place don't cause DVT lies from the airlines.

30 Apr 2020

Total posts 11

patrickk, 28 days of clear infections, so after 20 days you get an infection you start the whole 28 process again and again, virus might be eradicated by then.

The deputy medical officer Kelly said he saw no medical reason to close the borders, does it matter if an infection is in South QLD or Northern NSW, we're all Australians, I'm tired of this petty and parochial attitudes by border closures.

Problem is the Premiers think they'll get judged by the medical emergency, they're leaving the economic one to the Federal gov hence their need to stir economic activity. We'll see how the little states cope when jobkeeper ends.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 20

I would hope and expect that the middle seats will perhaps be allocated last except for family / household groups travelling together.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Sep 2014

Total posts 21

If you want the middle seat open you must also want 6c and 8c vacant if you're in 7c. Oh and keep 7d vacant as well because they are only 60cm away. No one complained when the normal flu existed in planes, or the Spanish flu (yes that's still around), but a virus that's only infecting roughly 700 people on this continent now sure has a good publicist. If you don't want get sick, stay home, if you are sick then stay home.

If you're happy to get 2000kg car parked in your garage, navigate around hundreds of other drivers, some who may be inebriated in some form or just incompetent, sit in a lounge and eat from a buffett, touch your nasty phone which was probably in the restroom at some point during the day, then you don't need to stress to much about who's not wearing an unproven mask or not at least 1.5m away from you on a plane!

And the Qantas arrogance continues....the fact that the rest of the Australian community and businesses comply with Government social distancing restrictions somehow does not apply to them, they see their business as above these restrictions, as it will be “uneconomical”. What about all the other businesses out there for whom these restrictions have been very “uneconomical“, but played their part in making Australia safer for all? C-mon QF, tow the line!

Etihad - Etihad Guest

01 Mar 2019

Total posts 2

So why is this a thing now ??

Until now you didnt have to wear a mask, but now that there is only 600 active cases across australia, all of a sudden its time to mask up ??

Give me a spell ....

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 101

Yeah good point. Asian countries enacted mask wearing mandates back in late March/April and their netizens were constantly bashing the "irresponsible white people" for not wanting to wear them like they do, but now at the end of the pandemic, the US and Australia are imposing these requirements too. It's laughable.

05 Feb 2020

Total posts 6

Ive done enough long haul flights on an A380 with the seat in front virtually in my lap and climbing over people to sqeeze out to get to the toilet to wish this was an opportunity to think about a new aproach to seating. Yes bums on seats makes money but where does it end. People arent sheep so economy class is pretty sad for comfort, no problem on a 2 hour flight, a bump and grind on long haul.

I genuinely welcome the idea of no one directly beside me and would pay a bit more for the privilege. I would feel much more comfortable with Cocoon style seats like business class without the perks of business in the economy section of the plane. Someone behind you spluttering away with a cold, the flu or covid all makes me cringe as I know theres a good chance I cought it on that flight. The statement from the Qantas group chief medical director is nonsense and he should fly from time to time in economy before making stupid statements.

This is the perfect chance for a rethink on what we were all doing previously.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 549

Brett the cocoon seat is the perk, and the source of the cost. The rest costs v little compared to the seat. So such a seat in the economy cabin would be an enlarged business class. Sort of what Qantas is doing same seat reduced service.


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