Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans has refused to apologise for a major breach of NSW coronavirus protocols, which saw passengers on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney allowed to disembark without being screened for virus symptoms.
The debacle took place on Tuesday night, when passengers on Jetstar Flight JQ520 were allowed off the plane before NSW Health officials arrived at the gate to screen them.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Mr Evans said the risk of transmission from the passengers was “very very low” as they had already been screened before leaving Melbourne.
“There was not a New South Wales Health official in the aerobridge. There should have been. People should have held the aircraft. They didn’t. Passengers got off,” Mr Evans said.
“I think what’s important, though, is these passengers were screened. They were screened in Melbourne and it’s the same screening process in Sydney. So they were not unscreened passengers.”
Mr Evans said NSW Health helped the airline in finding and screening two thirds of the passengers before they left the airport, while the remaining third were tracked down by authorities with 24 hours.
“But, from a risk perspective, it was a double-check and so the good news is these passengers were screened and they were screened in Victoria,” Mr Evans said.
He also confirmed the procedures have since been tightened to prevent the same incident from occurring again.
“We have now worked with the other airlines and New South Wales Health to strengthen our procedures at Sydney Airport,” he said.
“Aircraft now will stand off the gate on arrival from Victoria until it is confirmed that a New South Wales Health officer is in the aerobridge, at which point, the aircraft will come onto the aerobridge and the door will be opened and then passengers will disembark and be screened. And we have reinforced those procedures with all of our staff.”
He did however say it would be wrong to lay blame and refused to take responsibility for the screening fail.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to be apportioning blame. The situation is changing rapidly and there are protocols that we’re working together on,” he said.
NSW recorded 13 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, 11 of those were returned travellers while two were Albury residents.