Qantas has been grilled over potentially putting passengers at risk of coronavirus, after an inspection by Safework NSW found the airline was lax on cleaning processes.
The workplace regulator issued the world’s safest airline with an improvement notice for potentially exposing passengers and workers to “injury or illness” from inadequate cleaning processes on aircraft “that may have transported passengers with infectious disease”, according to a Travel Weekly report.
Aircraft cleaners were handling “wet and used tissues, used face masks and soiled nappies”, said the inspector, whom workers also advised of having occasionally had to clean vomit and blood off surfaces.
“I also observed workers wiping over multiple tray tables with the same wet cloth with no disinfectant and cleaning unknown liquids on floors and surfaces,” said the inspector, who noted that PPE (personal protection equipment) was not mandated for the majority of these tasks.
Qantas must now consult with a hygiene and infection control expert and implement a safer system of work for cleaners, including protective gear and assessments of how they come into contact with bodily fluids.
“Qantas is not known for being complacent when it comes to safety or the cleanliness of our aircraft,” a spokesperson from Qantas told Travel Weekly, saying that the airline may consider appealing the notice.
“All of our Fleet Presentation teams are provided with personal protective equipment for cleaning the aircraft, and for more hazardous items we have additional equipment such as masks and safety suits.”
Qantas cancelled a flight from Sydney to London last week to clean the A380 after a passenger tested positive for coronavirus.
“While Qantas Medical has assessed the risk as extremely low, we are doing some additional cleaning of those aircraft as a precaution,” said the spokesperson.
“This is in addition to the normal clean that takes place after each international flight.”
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia have also been forced to deep clean planes after infected passengers travelled on them.
“Airlines are on the front line of that challenge and it’s essential that the regulatory community work with us to ensure airlines are able to operate in the most sustainable manner, both economically and environmentally, to alleviate the worst impacts of the crisis,” stated International Air Transport Association (IATA).
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