Jetstar flight review: What’s flying like during the pandemic?
Your questions answered based on a recent Sydney-Cairns flight.
- Route: Sydney to Cairns (return)
- Duration: 3h 5m
- Flight Number(s): JQ952, JQ959
- Dates Travelled: 24-28 July 2020
- Class: Economy
Alex's review ★★★☆☆
- Great flight times
- Incredible $19 price tag
- No delays in either direction
- No social distancing
- Masks weren't mandatory
Taking full advantage of the brief border opening for Sydneysiders to fly up to Queensland paired with the recent sale for cheap-as-chips $19 Jetstar fares, I took off to Cairns for five days of warm weather for just $38 return.
While the government deemed the coronavirus situation in Australia safe enough to open up some state borders for leisure travel, I didn't know what to expect from a domestic flight departing in the middle of a pandemic.
In my review, I've answered some of our most pressing questions about flying within Australia right now. If you have more questions about my experience, feel free to leave a comment on the page below so we can help you prepare for your next domestic flight.
Before the flight
Can I pre-select my seats or are they pre-allocated for social distancing?
Seat selection for my flight was as per Jetstar's usual – you could pay for a selected seat before departure or be assigned one at random upon check-in.
If you wanted to pre-purchase a seat, you could choose any available seat regardless of whether there was someone in the one next to you.
Do I require proof that I can travel?
I found it worked similarly to how an airline may remind you of visa requirements for another country, but not check for proof you have one. Jetstar did send reminder text messages reminding me that I need to present my Queensland border pass upon arrival in the state.
The day prior to departure, I did get a second text message complete with a link to all the testing centre locations in Queensland should I fall ill upon arrival in the state. However, this has since changed to just sending travellers to the Tourism Australia website with the latest information about travelling interstate.
Check-in process and being at the domestic airport
Should I allocate extra time for domestic flights check-in?
Based on my experience, you don't need any extra time. I was unsure myself and arrived at the airport at about 4:45am for a 6:10am departure and found I was through security before the clock struck 5am.
Were there any changes to the check-in process?
I checked in online the day before just in case there was a delay upon arrival at the airport, so I can't speak for the check-in process at the airport. I did notice there were very few check-in counters open and you were encouraged to use the self-check-in service.
When I checked in online, I did need to confirm that I was symptom-free, haven't tested positive for COVID-19, haven't been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive and acknowledge that the airline will refuse to carry me if my declaration was false.
What's airport security like?
Security was normal, but with limited queues available. There was only one security screening operating, but due to the time of day and lack of travellers, there wasn't a line-up.
I wasn't asked any questions about my health, and although I was expecting my temperature to be taken at some stage, it never was.
Was there physical distancing in place at the airport?
Yes. Like you'd see in shopping centres and supermarkets, there were stickers on the floor throughout the airport encouraging you to separate yourselves from other travellers.
Being as early in the morning as it was, this wasn't an issue. There were plenty of seats by the gates and tables in the food court area where you could sit apart from other travellers.
Were there sanitation stations at the airport?
Yes, loads. There were numerous sanitiser dispensers scattered around the airport – especially at the entrance to any set of toilets and at the gates.
Most of the tables in the food court had stickers on them reminding you to keep your distance from other travellers.
As soon as I got up from the table I was using, a cleaner came over to sanitise before someone else sat down.
What was the boarding process like?
As per normal, but they did ask you to leave a gap between yourself and the people in front of you in the queue. Unfortunately, most people weren't doing this and the line was rather bunched together.
I wasn't asked at this time if I was feeling well (I was!), if I have been in contact with anyone or if I have been to a hotspot, like Victoria.
After my boarding pass was scanned, there was a box of complimentary Fly Well packs, which included a surgical mask and two sachets of sanitiser within a plastic bag.
On board the airplane
Was there physical distancing on board?
To my disappointment, there was no physical distancing on board when it came to seats. As far as I could tell, all seats were occupied including the middle seats.
We were asked to keep a 1.5-metre distance in the aisle between people when boarding and disembarking, which didn't make much sense considering there was someone just centimetres (or less) away from you when you were seated.
We were also asked to keep the queues at toilets to a maximum of two people at a time.
Was I expected to clean my own seat area?
No. While I'd heard of other airlines providing antibacterial wipes to passengers if they wanted to wipe down their seat, armrests and tray table, this wasn't provided and, as far as I know, also not expected aboard Jetstar flights.
I'm sure you could have used the sanitiser sachets to do this, but it would have been messy as no tissues were provided.
Were meals served?
Pre-ordered meals were still served, but nothing could be purchased once on board.
I didn't catch an announcement in Sydney, but this was announced before boarding in Cairns in case travellers wanted to purchase something to eat or drink at the airport before departure.
Were masks mandatory on board the aircraft?
No. They were provided in the Fly Well pack and passengers were strongly encouraged to wear them, but they weren't mandatory.
If you did choose to wear a mask on board, Jetstar did ask that you dispose of it only within the plastic bag it came in and not to put it (in the bag or not) into the seat pocket in front of you. Unfortunately, I did see some travellers doing just that.
Were the flight attendants wearing any sort of PPE?
Some were, some weren't. I noticed a few of the attendants wore both a mask and plastic gloves while others weren't wearing either.
Were most passengers compliant with the new rules?
While none of the "rules" was strictly enforced, the majority of passengers aboard the Sydney-Cairns flight were indeed wearing masks – whether the ones Jetstar provided or their own P2 or N95 masks for extra protection.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the same on the return journey departing Queensland where it looked like only about half the travellers donned a mask or wore them correctly.
After the flight
Was the disembarkation process any different?
Yes. Jetstar requested that everyone get off the plane one row at a time to discourage crowding in the aisles. Passengers on the Sydney-Cairns flight didn't comply with this request, but everyone did on the return flight. And it was an absolute pleasure. I hope this is a system that sticks around a lot longer than the coronavirus.
How does the Queensland Border Pass work on arrival?
Arriving in Queensland felt like arriving in a new country. After getting off the plane, everyone needed to queue to talk to a police officer before being allowed into the airport.
First, I needed to show my photo ID and my border pass to an officer. I had already removed my mask at this point, so I'm unsure if you would need to remove it so they can confirm your identity.
After this, I was sent to a second officer to answer a series of questions, including whether I've been to Victoria in the last 14 days or to any of the Sydney hotspots (which were just the Liverpool and Campbelltown areas at that stage). I also had to declare that I've been feeling well and haven't tested positive.