COVID-19 isolation rules changed for Sydney Airport staff as passengers hit with third day of long delays
Isolation requirements for airport staff have been relaxed following major delays that have plagued Sydney Airport for a third day.
- Some passengers say they have waited two hours to check in for flights
- Staff shortages, caused by close contact rules, are being partially blamed
- Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin and Sydney Airport say the Easter holiday period is likely to be the busiest since before COVID-19
Earlier today passengers had to wait for hours to go through security and check-in, while footage showed long queues stretching outside domestic terminals.
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia were all impacted.
In one tweet, a person who had arrived before 5am described the situation as “hell”.
Some planes were held back to allow passengers to make their flights as people flocked to travel for the Easter school holidays.
Staffing issues due to COVID-19 close contact rules were partially blamed for the delays, with airline staff unable to get exemptions available to other industries.
However, the state government has now added air transportation staff to the list of critical workers, exempting them from self-isolation rules if they become a household contact.
Under the changes made to the Public Health Order on Friday, workers identified as household contacts no longer have to isolate for seven days and can return to work if they have no COVID symptoms.
Workers must travel directly from their home, to-and-from work and wear a mask in the workplace at all times.
They must also undergo frequent Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) for seven days.
A spokesperson for NSW Health said the exemption applies to air transport services whose absence would pose a high risk of disruption, including pilots, baggage handlers, flight attendants and security staff.
If a worker tests positive or develops symptoms, they must self-isolate at home and cannot return to work.
On Friday, Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert issued an apology to passengers for wait times, saying the coronavirus was at the root of the issue and they were facing a “perfect storm”.
“Traffic numbers are picking up, travellers are inexperienced after two years of not travelling, and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport,” Mr Culbert said.
Airlines had been encouraging travellers to arrive at least two hours before their scheduled departure, but today some of those travellers who arrived earlier had to wait another hour to be able to join the queue.
One traveller arrived at the airport at 1.00pm for a 4.20pm flight to Brisbane only to be told they had to wait.
“We started to queue up, but we got kicked out of the queue. We have to wait now for another hour before I stand in the queue again,” they said.
“They should have realised [it’s] first school holidays since lockdown, with Easter holidays, I think they should have just been prepared.”
A spokesman for Sydney Airport said security queues had been extensive before 6am but later settled down, and there had been no reports of passengers missing flights.
Teams of staff were working to comb through passenger queues to prioritise more urgent flights, he said in a statement.