COVID-19

Domestic flight attendants feel ‘forgotten’

So far only Western Australian-based flight attendants have been offered the vaccine, although the Victorian Government announced this week cabin crew would be included in the next rollout phase.Bur flight attendants based in NSW, South Australia and Queensland, are yet to hear when they will have their turn.The Flight Attendants Association of Australia’s Vice President (domestic) Angela McManus told News Corp that many of its 1500 members had expected they would be offered the vaccine in the early rollout phases for frontline workers.“We assumed we would be the first to get vaccinated along with health workers given what we do,” she said. “It’s kind of a bit like we’ve been forgotten.”She said there had not been a single case of COVID contracted by a flight attendant from domestic airline travel since the pandemic began, and this was a testament to intensive hygiene protocols and the use of PPE.Ms McManus said domestic staff understood the importance for crew working on international flights to be vaccinated, but they felt it would not be difficult to roll the vaccination program out at domestic airports too.“They are not doing serious repatriation flying (returning international travellers to Australia) but we’ve got crews doing flights to New Zealand (as part of the trans-Tasman travel bubble) who haven’t been offered vaccination,” she said. “The time has come to have it opened up to domestic cabin crew.”Flights were all but grounded for much of last year, and the Federal Government has indicated international travel is a long way off for Australians. However there has been a big push for domestic travel to resume in a bid to boost the ailing tourist economy.Ms McManus said there were more passengers on domestic flights, and this was presenting new issues for cabin crew.“I think they’re (passengers) starting to get frustrated by the mask policy,” she said. “There are more passengers who are refusing to put them on and there are policies in place to deal with that. “But the job’s harder, it’s harder to communicate when everyone is wearing masks – it definitely has its challenges.” Ms McManus said some staff aged over 50 were now eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine, but many were concerned about the rare but well-documented risk of blood clots. She said they would like the option of another vaccine.“It would be nice to know at some stage we can relax because we have that extra layer of protection,” she said.A spokesman for Virgin Australia said the airline was engaging with state and federal health agencies to implement their approach to vaccination.However the responsibility for vaccine rollout and phases rested with the relevant state and territory health agencies, he said.A Qantas spokesman said Australia and New Zealand had a quarantine-free travel arrangement in recognition of the low number of incidents of COVID-19 transmission in each country, and there were additional health measures in place in-flight compared to other forms of transport, including mandatory masks and hospital grade HEPA filters. She said Qantas had spoken with governments about vaccine access for international and domestic crew. “The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is determined by federal and state governments, which are understandably prioritising those in higher risk areas including our international crew,” she said. “The risk for domestic crew is much lower given how few COVID cases there have recently been in Australia.“We are encouraging all our domestic crew to get vaccinated as soon as they become eligible.”

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