‘Ridiculous’: Inside horror Jetstar flight
Details of the last-minute scramble to screen airline passengers from Melbourne before they entered Sydney on Tuesday night have emerged, as one passenger labelled the entire process "ridiculous".
Jetstar flight JQ520 disembarked 137 passengers about 6.40pm without waiting for NSW Health officials to conduct health screenings.
Authorities scrambled to correct the mistake, but only 89 of those could be stopped before they left the airport - with the other 48 able to roam free in Sydney.
Two of those could not be contacted by NSW Health, and a third refused a screening. All were located at a house in Hurstville and spoken to by police late on Wednesday night.
Sydney mother-of-two Lauren McGill was on the flight with her mother and two young children and said it had been a shambles from the start, claiming passengers only found out they needed to self-isolate when they got to Sydney.
She said while she and her family had their temperatures checked before boarding the plane at Melbourne, there was no health screening or questions asked about where they had been.
Social distancing was enforced in the line, on the tarmac and on the stairs to board the plane - before the policy became impossible to enforce.
"We were told to keep our distance in the line, on the tarmac and the stairs, and then I guess it was every man for himself," she said. "It was packed."
After takeoff, the captain gave a weather update and an estimated flight time, and cabin crew handed out forms to passengers - though they were not able to answer any questions about it.
When the flight landed, Ms McGill said passengers were told they would be exiting via the front door only, but moments later they were ushered out the back door and into an empty airport.
"When we got into the terminal, we just walked straight out … there was no one there except maybe a few people waiting for a flight," she said.
"There was no one in a gown, no health professionals."
Ms McGill said as they headed to the baggage carousel, she saw a few people in gowns but none doing health checks.
"We got to baggage, and just as I saw my bag come out, I heard a policeman yelling out: 'Everyone stop, if you're on the flight you'll have to go back upstairs to get your health check'.
"It was ridiculous," she said.
Police were able to round up 89 passengers in the terminal and directed them back towards the gate, meaning they would have to go back through security, before one officer decided to bring the nurses to the passengers instead.
"The police seemed really frustrated and so did the health professionals," Ms McGill said.
"They took our temperature again, and we had to fill in the form (given to passengers on the plane), which asked for your home address and intended address in Sydney.
"I wrote the same for both because I was going back to my house."
After filling out the form, passengers were told the form had been designed incorrectly, and the home address was meant to be the address they had stayed at in Victoria.
"Everyone in the line was scrambling for a pen,"Ms McGill said.
Ms McGill is now isolating at her parents' house with her two children, as she cannot be near her husband until her mandatory self-isolation is over.
A NSW Health statement blamed Jetstar staff for the debacle, alleging they ignored protocol.
"Airline staff, contrary to agreed protocols, allowed passengers to leave the gate area before the health staff had concluded screening a prior flight," the statement read.
"As a result of this breach, flights will now not be allowed to land in NSW until NSW Health teams are in place to screen them."
A Jetstar spokesman told NCA NewsWire on Tuesday that crew had assisted health officials, who were reportedly not present at the time the plane landed, by locating passengers in the terminal.
The airline also provided the aircraft manifest to the department to assist them in contacting passengers who were not found.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans said he did not believe it was "appropriate" to allocate blame to anyone.
"We wish that it had been different, but it's a dynamic environment where the rules are changing," he said.
"There's not actually a formal protocol. It's a list of requirements."
Originally published as 'Ridiculous': Inside horror Jetstar flight