A Five Hour Delay Caused A Flight Full Of Passengers Into 14 Day Mandatory Quarantine

A delay of a little more than 5 hours caused a planeload full of passengers to be sent into 14 day mandatory hotel quarantine when they reached their destination.

Virgin Australia flight VA469 had departed from Perth, in Western Australia, enroute to Brisbane. But while the plane was in the air, the Australian state of Queensland where Brisbane is located closed its borders to incoming Perth traffic. And as a result, when the aircraft landed everyone was forced into government-mandated hotel quarantine set to last fourteen days. If the plane had departed on it, everyone would have landed under the wire.

In fact, the quarantine wasn’t even announced when the plane took off late. Instead, the snap decision, in response to new Covid-19 cases in Perth and its neighboring region in Western Australia, went into effect immediately on declaration.

The changes went into effect at 12.01am on Saturday morning, and the Virgin flight landed at Brisbane airport around 1.30am, the Courier Mail reported.

An estimated 150 passengers on the packed flight were then shuffled off the plane and taken to the Pullman airport hotel to begin 14 days of quarantine, one passenger, Adrian, told the newspaper.

“It’s just appalling,” he said. “The decision was made while we were flying and we had no opportunity to change travel plans.”

Since passengers weren’t able to become aware of the quarantine requirement prior to travel, the government announced it would pick up the tab for quarantine. The lockdown of Perth ended with the outbreak declared contained and passengers are being allowed to test out of quarantine today.

Australia has had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. They haven’t only limited entry into the country to their own residents, who must race for one of the limited slots for state quarantine. They’ve even intermittently restricted domestic travel between states. While they’ve kept Covid-19 at bay, the vast majority of their population remains vulnerable, and have flubbed their vaccine rollout.

I’ve written for a year about the challenge of regime uncertainty when travel is permitted. For travel to open, people need confidence that it’s safe, they need activities to be permitted at their destination, and they need confidence that the rules won’t be changing.

New York’s restrictions changed regularly, so that residents there who traveled briefly out of state specifically to places that wouldn’t require them to quarantine on return found that the list of U.S. sates requiring quarantine had changed over the weekend.

Last summer passengers off a Qatar Airways flight were forced into quarantine in Italy because while the passengers were in transit rules for entry by Bangladeshis had changed.

When considering travel it’s important to consider the risk that you’ll become infected with the virus abroad (or receive a false positive test) and have to quarantine. It’s important to consider not just whether you’re permitted to enter your planned destination, but also your connecting point in case of flight delays or a cancellation. And it’s worth even considering whether you’d be permitted to enter any diversion point should your flight encounter problems. And if any of these places along the way are experiencing outbreaks and have governments with conservative approaches to the pandemic there’s additional risk.

Until the whole world is vaccinated, we all face continued risks – limits on our activity, but also virus risk. That’s because the greatest threat now in the United States is continued mutation of the virus. The more people infected around the world, the greater opportunity for mutation. So we protect ourselves by helping the world vaccinate quickly. Export controls on vaccine raw ingredients should be lifted (as the Biden administration has just done, in part, for exports to India).

The more than 30 million AstraZeneca doses in U.S. storage should be released to the world as well – that vaccine isn’t even approved for use here though it’s approved in more than 70 countries. With more vaccine supply than demand in the U.S. it’s no longer even needed.

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kaooo)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Just imagine, thousands of Americans visiting Europe this summer and suddenly, BAM!!….LOCKDOWN!
    Miss your flight back, out of thousands dollars/euros at a government-run hotel (aka prison). Yeah, that will be so much fun!

  2. Are we ready to admit that Trump actually did something right? Trusted the private sector and ordered enough vaccines a year ago so that we would be supplying the countries that need it more than we do.

  3. I never liked visiting Europe in summer as it is crowded and overpriced. Not sure I would like to tolerate Covid restrictions and closures this year.

  4. @Ed
    this was only one flight where you had to contain maybe 100 people all coming at once.
    How would Europe want to catch tens of thousands of foreigners spread all over the place? Americans already will only be going to Greece, Croatia and maybe Portugal/Spain as all the central European countries will be under pointless semi-lockdown measures and the vacation spots will not lock down anyone.

  5. @Joe_B – the decision to use taxpayer funds to subsidize the private sector vaccine development may have been a good move, but it came at the expense of hundreds of thousands of dead people, millions of infections, and millions of unemployed people. Trump HAD no other strategy. Not even a rollout.

    If you think that makes Trump a success, you and I have very different bar.

  6. @Joe_B — yes, it hurts for me to say it, Trump did well spending the funds ordering the vaccine. I can’t argue that, but I can sure argue that he spent so long minimizing the risk, he resulted in likely more deaths than might otherwise had occurred.

  7. Welcome to Planet Barnacle.

    When will US high schools come to their senses and offer flight training on the same terms as drivers ed?

  8. @Florida Man Trump was widely chastised for banning travelers from certain high-infection countries in March 2020. That was considered too drastic by many. I should also point out that that pronouncement was made at just about the same time that the World Health Organization finally got around to declaring this a global pandemic. I think everyone got caught with their pants down prior to that point.

    And if Trump is so foolish and everyone else is wise, then why are so many people still dying?

  9. Joe-B Other countries ordered vaccines too but have not received their full orders that they made at the same time and also prepaid for but because Trump also imposed a ban on export of US-manufactured vaccine these have not been delivered. Neither Pfizer nor Moderna agreed to license any other pharmaceutical companies to manufacture theirs, so only two plants in Europe they own also make their vaccines to export to the rest of the world. So don’t praise Trump (who actually under ordered vaccines) and blame other countries for not having enough vaccine to protect their people.

  10. “New York’s restrictions changed regularly, so that residents there who traveled briefly out of state specifically to places that wouldn’t require them to quarantine on return found that the list of U.S. sates requiring quarantine had changed over the weekend.” Umm no Gary. That is false. First off there is no quarantine for domestic travel in NY anymore. Prior to that quarantine was required for all states that were not contiguous with NY. Way back when they did it state by state it was based on the seven day average of cases in states and I believe it was announced on Tuesdays, so it wasn’t changing over the weekends like you claim. It was quite easy to look at what states had covid cases increasing and knowing that they were likely to be on the list at least a couple of days in advance.

  11. “New York’s restrictions changed regularly, so that residents there who traveled briefly out of state specifically to places that wouldn’t require them to quarantine on return found that the list of U.S. sates requiring quarantine had changed over the weekend.”

    Gary, as a New Yorker, this never happened. I think you may have miscommunicated here. Did we have flights to UK in April 2020 that got screwed because of mandatory (U.K.) lock-downs? Yes. But never when returning from another state. None of the changes you discussed “changed over the weekend.”

  12. 80,000 people were able to go to a football game in Melbourne the other night; previously the Australian Open Tennis ran with crowds, and without a hitch. Australians have freedom of movement.
    Had we followed the US response to COVID , the death toll would have been close to 50,000 ( actual is 909). Yes, US fatality rate is 60 times that of Australia. (…and most Australians believe we’ve made some awful F-ups along the way, or the number could have been far lower than 909).
    Minor impositions ,like quarantine in this case, are an acceptable trade-off to keep people safe. And in any case the ACTUAL people of quarantine was 4 days, not 14, as the feared community transmission did not eventuate.
    Too many people go on and on with this preposterous BS about personal freedom / ‘nanny’ states: the truth is they’re seeking the ‘freedom’ to endanger others at their whim and fancy….

  13. @Joe_B, typical response from someone who never compromises. Shows why Congress can’t get much of anything done during Republican and Democratic administrations. Oh well, I tried and learned to not try. Good luck in finding in your Trump utopia (my dystopia).

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