Airline Crew Parties On Sydney Layover, Gets Fined

Filed Under: LATAM

Airline crews operating flights to Sydney are facing new restrictions, after a LATAM Chile crew recently had a night on the town, leading to a big fine.

How a LATAM crew got fined in Sydney

Airline crews operating flights to Sydney are supposed to self-quarantine in their hotel rooms for the entirety of their layovers. While I’d imagine compliance is generally quite good, that’s not the case across the board, apparently.

A few weekends ago a LATAM Chile crew with a layover in Sydney decided to breach the self-quarantine order, and decided to have a night on the town. Police had been called to the hotel after receiving reports about one crew member leaving the hotel, and it was then determined that 12 other crew members had left the hotel.

Crews with layovers in Australia have to stay quarantined for the entirety of their stay in Australia, and each of the crew members who violated this order is facing a personal $1,000 fine.

While there is a new cluster of coronavirus cases in Sydney, it’s not believed that this is connected to the LATAM crew’s night on the town.

A LATAM crew decided not to self-quarantine during a Sydney layover

Rules change for airline crew layovers

Australia is known for having some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world, as the country is closed off to most travelers, and those returning home have to go into a strict 14-day quarantine in a closely monitored hotel.

I had assumed that airline crews had a similar arrangement in Australia. I knew they had to self-quarantine during their layovers, but I assumed that this was closely monitored, kind of like how those in quarantine aren’t given a key to access their room, so that they can’t actually leave their room and try to sneak back in.

Well, as it turns out, that’s not how it worked for airline crews. They stayed in one of over two dozen hotels, and their movement wasn’t closely monitored. At least that was the case up until now, but that will be changing.

As of this Tuesday, airline crews with a layover in Sydney will be required to quarantine in one of two hotels managed by police and NSW Health, to make sure they don’t get into any funny business.

There are now new restrictions on airline crew layovers

Bottom line

Rules will be changing for airline crews in Sydney, whereby they’ll now have to stay in one of two hotels managed by the police. Previously airline crews were on the “honor system,” but that will change following over a dozen LATAM crew members going out in Sydney.

I’m a bit surprised that this wasn’t the case before, given how strict the country has been otherwise…

Are you surprised airline crews weren’t monitored more closely on layovers?

  1. @Lucky A linguistic quibble that everyone gets wrong, but it actually changes the meaning of sentences and sorties. Per the CDC:

    Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

    Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

    I certainly hope that crew broke quarantine, not isolation!

  2. @Scudder My government (Canada) requires healthy, uninfected travellers entering the country to “self-isolate”. That’s the terminology used by the Chief Medical Officer in live appearances and that’s the term used in all public campaigns. This is true in other English speaking countries as well. The words have become interchangeable.

    Your quibble about Ben’s terminology is one pandemic too late, I’m afraid.

    “access” was not a verb
    “chaise longue” had nothing to do with “lounge”
    “barbecue” does not contain the letter “Q”
    “reasonableness” replaced “reason” for no good reason
    “utilize” and “use” are perfectly synonymous, so why use the longer one?

  3. The old rules for foreign crews were based on the fact that Australian-based crews were allowed to return to their home to self-isolate after work, until their next trip; after all, if you had a 14 day quarantine each time you come home, who would want to work?

    The new rules place a greater burden on foreign crews, while still allowing Australian-based crews to self-isolate with Covid testing.

    There has been no evidence of any airline crew causing any outbreak in Australia, because they are frequently tested, monitored, and isolated if they display symptoms. It has worked without fail so far, even with the occasional scofflaws.

  4. @john there was a bus driver who transports crew who tested positive. Fortunately he did not pass it on to anyone. Genomic testing has proven this.

    I agree re the words self-isolate and quarantine being interchangeable. I made a 3am dash to the border last week when cases started rising. It was recommended I self isolate and get tested. Obviously I did the right thing. Victorians who arrived from Sunday afternoon until midnight Monday were allowed to quarantine at home but had to get tested. Random checking is occurring to ensure compliance.
    As of now in Victoria northern beaches residents are banned from entering and greater Sydney have to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days.
    The rumour going around Sydney this is that patient zero is either an Australian aircrew/ celebrity/government worker. All of whom can do home quarantine.

  5. @Scudder

    I share your frustration with people using quarantine vs. isolate. Perhaps different words are used in Australia, but definitely in the US, quarantine and isolate are different things!! The CDC has a handout, for those who are interested.

  6. People cheat. People lie. People don’t think that rules apply to them.

    Policies that rely on people doing the right thing will fail every time, because people are selfish idiots. It’s not complicated.

  7. @Scudder. In Aus and NZ, Quarantine is for the sick, Managed Isolation for people with negative tests and no symptoms. It confuses travelers and the media regularly.

  8. The reality is, our country is still a bit of a basket case when it comes to quarantine. Qantas crews are still permitted to self isolate at their own homes, even though they should also have to be quarantined. If you’re wealthy enough or famous enough, like Nicole Kidman for example, you’re also permitted to self isolate at your own home.
    If you’re a diplomat, you’re also permitted to self isolate in your own home.

    I was hoping that after this current outbreak on the Northern Beaches, that has screwed up everyones Christmas, this would change. It hasn’t. While International crew are now quarantine until their return flights, exemptions still exist for other reasons. It’s those exemptions that have caused the outbreak in Sydney.

    The virus strain is not a local strain. It came from the US, thought to have originated in a woman returning on the 1 December. It then jumped out of quarantine from there. We will are unaware of the missing link, but I can almost guarantee you that it was a quarantine exemption that caused it.

  9. strange to write about this and not mention the recent outbreak is due to a united airlines flight attendant out amongst it in Avalon. this has all but shut down Christmas for the northern beaches. flight attendants and “honor system” do not belong in the same sentence.

  10. On the self-isolation of flight crew and diplomats – it should be noted that they are not just allowed to go off into the sunset of their own homes for isolation. There is a fairly strict checking regime, with police visiting apparently on a daily and ‘random’ basis. That’s what discovered those naughty LATAM crew members, and a couple of diplomatic staff doing the wrong thing.

    Just to correct the record – the United Airlines flight attendant who was ‘let out’ early tested negative, and I am unaware of any evidence of that case being linked genomically with the current outbreak in the Sydney northern beaches. Anyway, the system that did present a ‘chink’ that the virus could get through has now been tightened as Ben explains

  11. @Richard, diplomats (specifically foreign ones) must quarantine at home. Australia isn’t allowed to detain them in quarantine (under one of the many conventions Australia is party to). They can continue to their mission where then they must quarantine

  12. Regarding the terminology, as a journalist I find that in Australia, “self-isolation” is used when someone is required to isolate themselves at home, and “quarantine” is used when someone gets isolated by the authorities. If you want to be really pedantic, the term for isolating the healthy, as opposed to the unwell, is a “cordon sanitaire”. Sydney’s infected patients are in quarantine; Queensland’s residents, on the other side of a closed border, are in a cordon sanitaire.

  13. Further to @MBAs comments it seems the current cluster, numbering 70+, originates from a very self-entitled couple with connections (you know what they are of course) who returned from the US recently, did not self-isolate, and spread it around all through their little community in no time.
    Unfortunately this area is a top, top plush destination for the rich and famous (think Palm Beach, Martha’s Vineyard etc.) of the world looking forward to a glorious beachside Christmas/New Year break from making money or being famous. Oops~ big wrinkle in those plans this year…
    Unsurprisingly, the state and federal Ministers involved are doing their damnest to supress the identities of these persons. Twitter will prevail, as it always does.

  14. So if they were sequestered based upon race, or national origin, or skin color, would that be as OK with you? Seems that we are going down a slippery slope of death by a thousand cuts, sacrificing liberty to chase what is touted as safety but is not.

    They should have known better but they are human, so not perfect.

  15. Dang Rufus. Misapplying the words of quarantine and inoculation advocate Benjamin Franklin to your irrelevant askhole question is next-level whataboutery. Props.

  16. @Mark

    Thank you I think, but it still begs the question of why we are willing to accept this questionable solution to an untenable position.

  17. Airline crews pose a bit of a problem that hadn’t come under the microscope here until now. There is a bit of a juggling act that has to happen. Sydney airport has a curfew for flights, so that limits arrival and departure times. And a lot of international flights from there take more than 8 hours. So , there needs to be a layover for lots of crews.
    Some flights are using crew from places where the numbers of covid19 infections are low. Singapore airlines for example. Some airlines are coming from home ports where infection rates are high. Up till now, each airline made its own arrangements and contracts with a variety of hotels at a price they negotiated. From today onwards, airlines will need to pay a government set layover fee for staying in a supervised hotle. That might ruffle feathers in the airline bean counting department.

    The next muddle to sort out is how to keep these crews apart but all in supervised layover hotels. It appears 2 hotels will be used , but that will probably be modified as time goes on.

    It used to be that people from overseas thought of Australians as “easy going” , “laconic” “happy go lucky”. My Swiss friend assured us, when he did some housesitting for us, that we have far more rules than Switzerland. It is what it is. Those readers with a young relative who excells in bureaucracy, could do well in mentioning Australia as a career path.

    And thus, as a nation,instead of travelling, we Australians have kept ourselves largely entertained making rules for one another, during what has been quite a queer year.

    On a different travel related website there was a similar editorial article about the United flight attendant , huffing and puffing that surely airlines would avoid coming to Australia if the flight attendants were put in secure hotels. That may well be so, but with our pleasant national hobby of day to day rule making, we might not notice for quite some time.

    It does occur to me though, many articles in “travel” websites are now no longer about travel experiences as such. But instead telling us how one nation is faring compared to another as if this were a virus olympics. For a while Sweden was championed by a number of rather pushy individuals telling us that their death rate should be viewed in such and such a way, along with a team promoting Germany and its “scientific ” approach. We heard of “travel bubbles”, “travel corridors” and all sorts of whatnot.

    It would be nice though to hear some stories from the other places which also use the closed border system… New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand,Vietnam, the island nations in the South Pacific, the Maritime Provinces in Canada. It would be a pity if Australia was being singled out by the travel websites , wouldn’t it? Then again, stories about Australia do seem to get quite a few replies and “clicks”. I suppose that keeps a travel website financial…..

    But wouldn’t it be nice just once in a while to have a travel story?

  18. @2PAXfly

    your correction duly noted. clearly i thought the united crew was the culprit when I posted but soon after saw the smh article. oops…

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