Optional complimentary masks and sanitising wipes are among the new frills passengers can expect from a COVID-safe program to be rolled out by Qantas (ASX: QAN) and its subsidiary Jetstar as they clear the runway for an easing of domestic travel restrictions.
Dubbed the "Fly Well" program and based on the Qantas' Group's temporary measures for repatriation flights from virus hot-spots, the range of measures will be rolled out from 12 June.
The program has been designed to give passengers peace-of-mind with contributions from best-practice medical advice and customer feedback.
"Safety is absolutely core to how we operate and that applies to new challenges like managing the risk of coronavirus so people can fly with confidence," says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
"From the early rescue flights we operated right into Wuhan and then more recently bringing Australians back from places like the US and Europe, we have a lot of experience at creating a safe cabin environment for passengers and crew.
"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. 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."
He says the company will continue to work with the government and monitor the roll-out of these measures closely, while the group's medical director Dr Ian Hosegood claims the data shows the actual risk of catching coronavirus on an aircraft is already extremely low.
"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," Dr Hosegood says.
"As far as the virus goes, an aircraft cabin is a very different environment to other forms of public transport.
"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."
The air conditioning systems of all Qantas and Jetstar aircraft are already fitted with hospital-grade HEPA filters, which the group says remove 99.9 per cent of all particles including viruses. Air inside the cabin is refreshed on average every five minutes during flight.
Key measures of Fly Well include:
- Information sent to all customers before they fly, so they know what to expect;
- Contactless check-in (via online/app) and self-serve bag drop strongly encouraged, including use of Q Bag Tags;
- Hand sanitising stations at departure gates;
- Temporary changes to Qantas Lounges, including increased physical distancing, hand sanitising stations, enhanced disinfection of surfaces and adjustments to food and drink service; and
- Working with airports on other safeguards in the terminal, including regular disinfection of security screening points and installing hygiene screens at airline customer service desks, wherever practical.
- Masks provided to all passengers on each flight while not mandatory from a safety point of view, they are recommended to be worn in the interests of everyone's peace-of-mind;
- 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;
- Sanitising wipes given to all passengers to wipe down seat belts, trays and armrests themselves, if preferred;
- Simplified service and catering to minimise touchpoints for crew and passengers;
- Passengers asked to limit movement around cabin, once seated; and
- Sequenced boarding and disembarkation to minimise crowding.
Updated at 11:37am AEST on 19 May 2020.
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