SARS - Updated Information for Qantas and Australian Airlines Customers

SYDNEY, 28 April 2003

How safe is it to fly to Asia?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued an advice including a strong recommendation that Australians should consider deferring, until further notice, non-essential travel to China (particularly Guangdong province), Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Toronto in Canada.

The most up-to-date information about SARS is available at the WHO web site at

For advice about travel, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at, or call +61 2 6261 3305 (local call cost - within Australia only - 1300 555135).

Is it safe to transit in Asia?

According to medical authorities, people in transit at airports are at very low risk of exposure to SARS.

Advice is that it would be prudent, while in transit, to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. If contact cannot be avoided, particularly with people who are coughing, a simple surgical face-mask and regular hand washing will offer added protection.

Contact the Department of Health and Ageing for the most up to date information or visit

Will Qantas be changing its flights or bypassing some stops in Asia?

Qantas monitors its schedules continually. Customers will be advised of any changes to normal schedules either by their travel agent or the airline.

Flights to Asia will continue. However, some suspensions and flight changes may occur from time to time.

How are Qantas and Australian Airlines screening passengers for this illness?

Qantas and Australian Airlines are in contact with the relevant health authorities and are complying with all their directives.

Qantas and Australian Airlines will not carry a passenger exhibiting SARS symptoms unless a medical assessment is carried out and clearance obtained by the relevant airport's medical authority.

All Qantas and Australian Airlines check-in staff and cabin crew are being vigilant and watching for symptoms of SARS.

Advisory signage about symptoms is being displayed on check-in counters, and information letters are also available at check-in counters. These letters are being handed out to all passengers for Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei flights.

The World Health Organisation has advised that a person is not infectious unless he or she is exhibiting these symptoms, and that screening procedures for passengers being implemented at airports are effective.

What are the symptoms of SARS?

The World Health Organisation lists the symptoms as:

High fever (more than 38 degrees Celsius)
one or more respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
one or more of the following:- close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with SARS- recent history of travel to areas reporting cases of SARS.

What are Qantas and Australian Airlines doing to disinfect their aircraft?

Qantas and Australian Airlines' normal aircraft cleaning procedures comply with the manufacturer's guidelines.

In the event of a suspected case of SARS, the aircraft will undergo a special cleaning and disinfecting process as specified by the local airport authorities before the aircraft is boarded again.

What happens to the other passengers if a case of SARS is found on a Qantas or Australian Airlines aircraft?

If a passenger is displaying SARS symptoms, every attempt will be made to isolate the passenger on board. Qantas and Australian Airlines will make masks available for all passengers within a six-row, 360 degree radius of the passenger where isolation is not possible. Crew dealing directly with that passenger will also be masked.

During the flight, details will be provided to the appropriate airport health authorities prior to arrival, and on arrival the sick passenger will be referred to airport health authorities for assessment and management.

All passengers will be informed of the situation, and local health authorities will direct passengers on arrival, including recording all passengers' contact details for follow-up if necessary.

Are there special quarantine restrictions in Australia for SARS cases?

Inquiries about the handling of SARS patients in Australia should be directed to the Department of Health and Ageing at or on their special hotline 1800 004 599.

People outside Australia should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at, or by calling +61 2 6261 3305.

For other passengers who may have travelled on the same aircraft as a person with SARS symptoms, there is currently no indication that passengers without the symptoms themselves will have to be quarantined, and no medication or treatment will be required unless they become ill.

Are Qantas and Australian Airlines providing masks for passengers?

Qantas and Australian Airlines will make masks available for all passengers within a six-row, 360 degree radius of a passenger who exhibits SARS-like symptoms in flight.
Crew dealing directly with that passenger will also be masked.

People wanting to wear a mask as a precaution are able to bring their own.

What is the quality of air inflight?

Qantas and Australian Airlines operate their aircraft cabin air systems according to the manufacturer's operating procedures.

Aircraft use a mix of recirculated air and outside air and all recirculated air is filtered. All modern aircraft - such as those in the Qantas and Australian Airlines fleets - have a constant flow of fresh air entering the cabin. On average, there is a complete cabin air exchange every three minutes.

The World Health Authority has advised that SARS is transmitted by droplets through close person to person contact and not through air.

How safe is the food you serve on board?

The strict hygiene standards for food handling that Qantas and Australian Airlines impose at all locations means customers need have no concern about the inflight food service.

Can I change my booking because of SARS?

There is a policy for travel changes and refunds for bookings on Qantas and Australian Airlines services to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, China and Toronto, Canada.

See your travel agent or call Qantas for details and conditions.

What about money I lose on accommodation or other services as a result of changing my booking?

You should approach your travel insurance company if you have any questions regarding other expenses incurred as a result of changing your travel plans.

Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (2899)