COVID-Safe Domestic Flying—Domestic Passenger Journey Protocol

The Australian aviation industry has developed a Domestic Passenger Journey Protocol to provide clear and consistent guidance regarding risk-minimisation principles and processes in domestic airports and on aircraft for domestic passenger travel.

This Protocol will provide guidance for industry members and confidence to the travelling public as domestic air travel increases with the reduction in COVID-19 related restrictions on travel.

The measures set out in the Protocol are intended to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 for domestic airline passengers and workers. They were informed by health advice provided by Australian authorities, as well as guidance promulgated by international aviation authorities such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Protocol has been considered and is supported by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which is made up of state and territory Chief Health Officers and chaired by the Australian Government's Chief Medical Officer.

It is important to note that, while governments strive for consistency, passengers may notice some variations in the implementation of the Protocol in different circumstances. This is due to the different COVID-related measures applied in different states and territories, as well as differences in relevant regulations and legislation.

The Domestic Passenger Journey Protocol complements existing regulatory frameworks (covering issues such as security, disability access, and work health and safety), and recognises industry needs to implement the Protocol consistent with these frameworks which remain enforceable by the relevant regulators.

Finally, while the Protocol is robust, like all COVID-19 measures, it will only work when the measures are used. Success in preventing the spread of COVID-19 through domestic air travel relies on all parties, including passengers, playing their part in minimising risk by adhering to the measures.

As part of this approach, the Australian Government encourages all Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to help stop the spread and keep ourselves and each other healthy.

The Protocol is subject to regular review and may change as circumstances change.

Questions and Answers

Do I have to wear a face mask?

Health advice continues to recommend that healthy people in the community do not need to wear masks, while the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 is low.

In some situations where it is not feasible to maintain physical distancing, or where someone is at an increased risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19 (for example age or a chronic medical condition), wearing a face mask may be a reasonable additional safety measure. For this reason, some airlines may ask you to wear a mask.

However, a face mask is not a substitute for other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as hand hygiene and cough etiquette. If you wear a mask, it is important to do so safely to avoid increasing the risk of infection to yourself and others. You must be careful about how you put on and take off your mask, not touching the outside of the mask while using it, and disposing of it correctly.

More information on the appropriate use of face masks.

Why isn't physical distancing being mandated on board aircraft?

To date, there have been few published reports of COVID-19 transmission in flight, particularly where appropriate control measures have been implemented.

The risk appears to be mitigated by forward facing seats, the height of the seats, the ventilation and filtration systems and other controls applied prior to flight and inflight, including hygiene and environmental measures.

Where possible, physical distancing will be facilitated by airlines, and family groups seated together with spacing between groups and individuals.

Why don't you need a temperature check at the airport?

Not every person who has COVID-19 will have a high temperature. It is only one symptom of COVID-19, and some people don't display symptoms at all. This is why layers of measures are used to reduce risk, rather than relying on a single measure.

Airlines and airport operators are responsible for meeting a regulatory obligation to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the safety of their passengers and their workers. No single measure to achieve this is foolproof, so the aviation industry has adopted a layered approach, using multiple measures to address risks, as a back-up in case one measure doesn't work as well as intended.

For example, your bag gets screened at security, but sometimes it will also be tested for explosives, and police at airports are trained to look for suspicious behaviour among passengers.

Some airlines and airports may choose to include measures such as temperature checking. This is not a substitute for other COVID-19 prevention measures, such as practicing good hand hygiene and physical distancing where possible.

Why do airlines and airports have their own risk management plans which can require different things?

Airlines and airports , like all businesses, have to manage all sorts of risks.

It is not realistic or desirable for governments to have detailed rules about how to manage every possible issue.

Instead, many regulatory frameworks require businesses to manage risks by implementing measures which are “reasonably practicable”. 

Businesses face significant penalties if they breach their obligations in this respect.

Risks around COVID-19 are no different.

Each airport and airline faces different risks, and what is “reasonably practicable” will depend on the circumstances.

Are airlines and airports required to follow this Protocol?

The Protocol is a framework and helps the aviation industry think about the type of risks that may arise in the passenger journey and the types of measures the industry could implement to manage these risks. Airlines and airports have agreed to use this Protocol to guide their own plans.

It is also very important to help passengers get a sense of what they can expect when they travel, and to reassure the community that government and industry is working together to keep the community safe.

Airlines and airports must continue to meet their regulatory obligations (such as workplace health and safety) and face significant penalties for non-compliance.

Where can I get more information?

Australian Government Department of Health—official medical advice, and information on how the Australian Government Department of Health is monitoring and responding to COVID-19.

Infection Control Expert Group—official advice on how to use face masks.

COVIDSafe app—speeds up contacting people exposed to COVID-19.

Coronavirus Australia app;—allows you to stay up to date with official information and advice about the COVID-19 situation.

You should also check individual State and Territory jurisdictions’ advice on interstate travel.