Qantas And Virgin Not Equipped To Combat Covid-19, Says FAAA

Australia’s major airline, Qantas, has denied claims made by the Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia that it  had a shortage of personal protective equipment for staff and passengers on flights at the start of  the coronavirus pandemic.

In a submission to a federal Senate committee into COVID-19, the FAAA said the aviation industry had not readied itself for a potential second outbreak of the disease in Australia.

The association slammed Qantas and the government’s initial handling of the pandemic, saying responses were “reactive”.

It also noted inconsistencies between Qantas’s self isolation policies for staff and government guidelines.

“With a second wave of COVID-19 expected, the Australian Government needs to have greater oversight of PPE in the airline industry, due to the significant exposure of the community while travelling both domestically and in the future internationally,” the group said.

A Qantas spokesman said allegations about PPE equipment were wrong and not once was the airline unable to provide a staff member without adequate protection.

Qantas obtained a federal government exemption from social distancing rules on May 19, launching a domestic “Fly Well” program designed to minimise the potential threat of virus transmission.

“All passengers receive a mask and sanitising wipes as they board aircraft as part of our Fly Well program,” a Qantas spokesman said.

“Recent customer research shows 75 per cent of our flyers said they would be extremely comfortable or comfortable flying with the safety measures announced as part of the Fly Well program.”

The FAAA said it had repeatedly asked Qantas for evidence that supported the program, instead of complying with social distancing.

According to the report, Qantas chief medical officer Dr Ian Hosegood previously said planes had a low risk of transmission, contradicting health authorities that identified the aviation sector as a key risk area.

The association is also concerned airlines have used government wage subsidy scheme JobKeeper as a mechanism to reduce wage liabilities relating to overtime payments and underpayments.

It noted JobKeeper payments had funded additional wage entitlements accrued before the implementation of the wage subsidy scheme on March 30.

The FAAA said one of its members had been underpaid for six months before the pandemic and JobKeeper had been used to offset the outstanding wages owed.

“JobKeeper should not be used to offset this pay correction,” the FAAA said.

“Taxpayer money should not have been used to fund company payroll errors.”

Qantas denied claims it used JobKeeper to subsidise payroll underpayment errors.

NCA NewsWire understands the FAAA is expected to give evidence to the COVID-19 Senate committee next week regarding these issues.

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