It’s been a seatbelt yanking (then all too restful) 12 months for the travel industry. According to 2020 UN reports, the tourism industry is facing a $1 trillion loss, and 100 million jobs are at risk. The damage didn’t magically stop either when the clock ticked over into 2021. The hemorrhage continues, despite gradual improvements and the promise of a global vaccine rollout.
Looking for a symbol of said loss? Look at these majestic aircraft languishing in the Alice Spring desert.
One area which is improving, albeit amid setbacks, is domestic travel. Though there are still questions around the exact costs (vs. the benefits) of their relative freedom of movement, European residents are currently able to traverse much of The Continent, to give one example.
Likewise, though they are not allowed to fly overseas, Australians are able to travel again domestically with much greater ease than much of last year. Though Victoria is experiencing a “circuit breaker” lockdown after a quarantine cluster (which has been traced back to Thursday, February 4th) has spread to 17 active cases of COVID-19 across nine Melbourne households, flights are still operational between Melbourne and Sydney.
Last year we hopped aboard an eerily empty flight to provide readers with an insight into the sad new reality of flying domestically in Australia. This week a DMARGE correspondent flew business class from Sydney to Melbourne, documenting what it’s like in 2021 along the way.
Some of the behaviour in the airport lounge was surprising. Photos taken in the Qantas domestic Sydney lounge show some Australian business class passengers not wearing masks.
Various passengers in the lounge kept their masks on. All Qantas staff DMARGE observed kept their masks on too.
Many passengers didn’t, however.
Under the, “Do I need to wear a mask at the airport?” FAQ section of the Sydney Airport website, at the time of writing, advice reads, “The NSW Government has introduced a requirement for mandatory face masks in a number of indoor settings. Consistent with this, we require face masks in terminals from Monday 4 January. Please bring your own mask from home where you can.”
“Passengers can take additional measures to help avoid queuing and congregating at the airport by checking in online where possible and arriving at the advised time ahead of their flight, which is one hour for domestic flights, and three hours for international flights.”
“We encourage you to contact your airline prior to flying to familiarise yourself with their individual safety protocols.”
Qantas’ Fly Well guidelines seen by DMARGE online, however, do not mention mandatory mask-wearing in the lounge. The five bullet points regarding the lounge read as follows:
- Entry requirements – you’ll be required to provide your contact details as part of COVID-19 contact tracing requirements.
- Capacity restrictions – social distancing rules apply, therefore access may be impacted by current government requirements.
- Hand sanitising stations – installed throughout the lounge.
- Amended services – hosted food and beverage services replace our traditional self-serve buffets.
- Regular cleaning – highly frequented areas are cleaned regularly.
Virgin Australia’s domestic airport lounge web page does not mention mandated mask-wearing either (at the time of writing).
It remains mandatory to wear a mask in Sydney on public transport (at the time of writing). Many supermarkets, however, have now relaxed their rules and made it optional (as have most cafes and restaurants) in Sydney.
Looking skywards, however, according to Virgin Australia’s current health and wellbeing guidelines, “Face masks are required to be worn in Australia airports and on all domestic Australian flights, except in limited circumstances. Spare masks are available at the boarding gate and onboard.”
“We encourage you to check with the relevant state or territory health departments for the most up to date requirements at your departure location and destination.”
Australian and state and territory governments have issued guidance on when a person will be exempt from wearing a face mask. These exemptions include:
- If you have a physical or mental health condition, illness or disability that prevents you from wearing a face mask.
- If you have trouble breathing wearing a mask.
- If you are unable to remove a face mask without assistance.
- If you are assisting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing and their contacts.
On the topic of exemptions, Virgin Australia’s guidelines state: “If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a face mask, you may wish to follow our medical clearance process to obtain a medical clearance that covers your face mask exemption.”
“If you obtain a medical clearance, we will be able to let our crew know that you have a face mask exemption to make your journey more seamless.”