Jetstar accused of compromising safety

Release date: 29/09/2011

A former flight attendant has told Lateline he quit his job at Jetstar because of safety concerns. The budget airline maintains it has rigorous safety standards but a clause in the contract for Singapore-based Jetstar crew states they could be forced to work shifts longer than 20 hours. 

Steve Cannane, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lateline Transcript 

STEVE CANNANE, ABC REPORTER: In June, Dallas Finn signed up to be a Jetstar flight attendant in Darwin.

DALLAS FINN, JETSTAR FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I have wanted to be a flight attendant since the age of 14. I've wanted to travel; I've had a customer service background and that was something that I've always wanted to pursue.

STEVE CANNANE: But two months later, Dallas Finn quit Jetstar, citing safety concerns.

DALLAS FINN: I basically told them that they had actual safety issues with the airline and that that should be addressed.

STEVE CANNANE: Two weeks earlier, he had filed this incident report about fatigue after flying five return international flights in five days.

EXCERPT FROM DALLAS FINN'S INCIDENT REPORT: The majority of these flights were quite busy. I found that my sleeping patterns were drastically affected to the point of fatigue. Clearly there are safety issues here pertaining to cabin crew if an emergency situation arises on the return flight from Saigon or Manila where the duty is 12 to 13 hours return.

DALLAS FINN: The majority of the flights out of here from Darwin are all back of the clock, so you're leaving early evening and you're not getting back till quite early the next morning.

Ho Chi Minh flight was a 10 – sorry, between a 12- to 13-hour day. They would actually change the pilots over in Ho Chi Minh but the cabin crew would have to fly back.

STEVE CANNANE: But what happened before a flight he was sharing with Singapore-based staff gave him more cause for concern.

DALLAS FINN: Before we actually get on a flight we have to go through a briefing; one is ... the questions are on emergency procedure, on occupational health and safety procedure, and a medical question.

I went to answer the emergency and the medical question when the cabin manager stopped me and got to get the Singapore crew to actually answer the questions, and basically they couldn't answer the emergency procedure and they couldn't actually answer the medical question.

It was the first time I've ever been scared of actually flying because if something went down I didn't know if that crew would be able to back me up.

STEVE CANNANE: No-one from Jetstar was available to be interviewed. In a statement, they said all crew are required to complete rigorous training.

EXCERPT FROM JETSTAR STATEMENT: We're aware of a concern about the perceived proficiency of a crew member on a Melbourne to Darwin flight on 17 July 2011. These concerns were investigated and it was determined that the crew member satisfied proficiency requirements.

STEVE CANNANE: There are also concerns that Jetstar's Singapore-based crew don't have the same protections that Australian crews have.

Lateline has obtained a copy of the contract for Jetstar's Singapore-based flight attendants. It states that crew can work shifts up to 20 hours long, but as this clause shows, staff can be forced to work even longer than the 20-hour limit without consultation.

JETSTAR CABIN CREW CONDITIONS SINGAPORE (voiceover): The Planned Limit and Operational Extensions may be extended by agreement between Jetstar and the supplier.

STEVE CANNANE: The supplier is a company called Value Air; they supply cabin crews for Jetstar out of Singapore, but Value Air and Jetstar are unlikely to disagree over crewing extensions.

Qantas, through Jetstar Asia, have a 49 per cent holding in Value Air.

A Singapore-based crew member told Lateline:

SINGAPORE-BASED CREW MEMBER (voiceover): If we complain about fatigue or long hours or bad flight rosters, the management's reply is: you signed a legal contract, so you have to do whatever that is.

STEVE CANNANE: While it's in the contract that shifts can go beyond 20 hours, Jetstar, in a statement, says it doesn't roster 20-hour shifts.

JESTSTAR STATEMENT (voiceover): The longest rostered shift is 15 hours and 20 minutes. The average rostered international cabin crew shift is approximately 10, 11 hours.

STEVE CANNANE: In July, Lateline revealed Jetstar's Thai-based crew signed bonded contract. If they quit or were sacked, they had to pay up to four and half months of their base wage.

The contract for Singapore crew is similar. They can be forced to pay back nearly three months of their base wage if they resign or are dismissed.

JO-ANN DAVIDSON, FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA: The association views that sort of practice as appalling. We would never allow under an enterprise agreement in Australia to have bonding for cabin crew, but they're allowed to do that overseas and we think that's unacceptable.

STEVE CANNANE: But Jetstar says this reflects local market conditions.

DALLAS FINN: I think they're abusing the situation with the working rights. I mean, they're going under Singaporean law and they're going under Thai law, but they're flying above our skies.

STEVE CANNANE: Steve Cannane, Lateline.

ALI MOORE: And the full statement from Jetstar in response to concerns raised in that story will be on our website shortly.

Click here to read the story on ABC website

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