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What is the process for COVID-19 testing at the airport?

International flight crew will complete a health screen, a face to passport check with Australian Border Force and clear customs. They will then be directed to a NSW Health testing station where they will be requested to participate in a COVID-19 test. After completion, NSW Police will allocate them to a quarantine hotel and escort them to their transport to the hotel.

Will NSW accept negative test results obtained overseas?

No. NSW Health does not accept the results of people tested for COVID-19 in other countries, regardless of the type of test.

It is a NSW Government requirement that all international flight crew be tested for COVID-19 before they are able to complete their quarantine period and depart the quarantine hotel. Flight crew who decline to be tested will be required to remain in the quarantine hotel for up to 24 days, and will not be permitted to depart on another flight leaving Australia until they have completed the quarantine period.

Where will the test take place?

Testing will occur in a private screening station at the airport, after clearing customs and before being allocated to a hotel by NSW Police.

What type of test is required?

International flight crew (non residents) will be required to have a saliva test on arrival at the airport (day 0). Saliva testing uses the saliva from a person’s mouth to test for the presence of the COVID-19 virus. The test is painless and simple and can be done by the crew member, under supervision from a healthcare worker. The test swab is simply placed in the mouth for 30 seconds, then placed into the provided vial.

If the result of the saliva test is non-negative, that is a negative result is not produced, a nose and throat swab will be required to confirm the result. NSW Health follows the Communicable Diseases Network Australia National Guidelines, which recommends an oropharyngeal and bilateral deep nasal swab (nose and throat swab) as the gold standard for diagnostic testing for COVID-19.

All NSW resident and interstate resident flight crew will need to undergo a nose and throat swab on arrival at the airport.

The type of laboratory test carried out for both a saliva test and a nose and throat swab is a reverse transcriptase – polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

How long will the test take?

Crew will be given a short briefing by NSW Health staff before having the test, and the sample collection for the test takes approximately 1 minute. The total amount of time spent at the testing station will vary depending on demand. NSW Health is increasing resources to support processing crew through the testing station as quickly as possible. NSW Health will take samples of all flight crew members before they can progress to NSW Police and their hotel.

Will there be enough testing stations to ensure a fast process?

NSW Health has increased testing capacity at the airport, including providing additional testing stations and healthcare staff to accommodate crew-testing. NSW Health acknowledges the significant impact of delays to both crew and incoming flights, and endeavours to streamline the health screening and testing processes as much as possible.

Airlines are required to provide crew manifests to NSW Health prior to each flight’s arrival, so that crew can be pre-registered in the pathology system. This will assist in efficient processing and will speed up the processing of aircrew at Sydney Airport. Please send the crew manifest to SLHD-SydAirport-Screening@health.nsw.gov.au for pre-registration, including details of date of birth, gender and email address.

What is the cost of the COVID-19 test if it takes place at the hotel?

COVID-19 testing is free of charge in NSW, regardless of where it takes place.

How often do flight crew need to be tested in NSW?

Flight crew will be asked to have a COVID-19 test each time they arrive in NSW.

Crew will be tested:

  • on arrival at the airport (day 0), (saliva test for non-resident international crew, nose and throat for NSW resident and interstate resident flight crew)
  • every 5-7 days while in quarantine (nose and throat)
  • on day 12 before completing the quarantine period (nose and throat)
  • anytime they present with symptoms (nose and throat).

If crew continue to reside in NSW after release from their isolation requirement, crew are also asked to be tested on day 16. However, if they do not have any symptoms, they do not need to self-isolate while waiting for this test result.

The standard quarantine period is 14 full days if the crew adheres to the requirements in the current Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order in relation to testing. The quarantine period will last longer if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or decline testing.

Will COVID-19 testing impact crew rest time?

Testing will be undertaken at the airport prior to crew proceeding to the hotel and commencing rest. Crew will be provided with information on how to register on an online portal to receive their test result by email, so that their rest time is not disturbed.

How will crew receive their test results?

Test results will be received by email or are available online for crew members only. Crew will be provided with information on how to register on an online portal. Due to firewall restrictions, online portal access is only available while in Australia. Registration to the portal requires a unique email, and unfortunately a generic email is unsuitable for the registration and distribution of results.

How long will it take to receive the test results?

Test results are usually available within 24 hours, however in some circumstances may take up to 72 hours.

Is the crew member required to wait at the airport for the test result, or can they proceed to the quarantine hotel to await results?

The crew member will be tested at the airport prior to proceeding to the hotel. There is no need to wait at the airport for the test result. Crew can access their test result online so that their rest is not disturbed.

Will crew be informed of a negative test result, or only a positive result?

Test results will be provided via email. Crew members who test positive will also receive a call from NSW Health to discuss what this means for them and to initiate contact tracing.

Will the airline receive notification of the crew member’s test result, and updates on their condition and their expected departure?

Due to patient confidentiality, NSW Health does not routinely provide test results or other health information directly to airlines. Should the airline wish to be provided with a crew member’s test result, they should contact the crew member directly.

If, however, NSW Health is unable to reach a crew member to notify them of a positive result, it may be necessary to notify the airline in order to facilitate contact tracing.

With permission from the crew member, NSW Health will liaise with airlines to plan the crew member’s departure from quarantine.

Can crew depart on their next scheduled flight duty before the result comes back?

Yes, crew can depart on their next scheduled flight if their test result is still pending, or if it is negative, as long as they are not showing any symptoms and have not been identified as a close contact.

If a crew member tests positive where will they be quarantined?

The crew member will be transferred to NSW Health Special Health Accommodation located in Sydney, or to hospital if they require a higher level of medical care.

If a crew member tests positive, when will they need to be tested again and when will they be allowed to leave?

If a crew member tests positive, they will be transferred to NSW Health Special Health Accommodation located in Sydney, or to hospital if they require a higher level of medical care. Additional testing may be sought during their stay, and prior to completing quarantine.

They may be allowed to depart on their next flight of duty out of Australia if there has been a determination of an “old infection”. This determination may be possible where a flight crew member:

  • has no symptoms, and
  • has had an infection within the previous 60 days, and
  • tested positive more than 14 days since departure, and
  • provides evidence of COVID-19 test result.

Under exceptional circumstances flight crew who have tested positive for COVID-19 may be permitted to return overseas where the following conditions are met:

  • the affected crew member is asymptomatic;
  • the returning aircraft does not carry any passengers;
  • PPE is worn by all on board
  • physical distancing is practiced by all on board
  • where possible, the infectious crew member is isolated in a separate segment of the plane;
  • the airline is aware and accepts the risk to crew and endorses the travel; and the receiving country is aware.

If a crew member tests positive, will the entire crew be required to quarantine, or only the individual crew member?

Flight crew who are close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case may be permitted to leave Australia if they meet certain criteria:

  • the affected crew member is asymptomatic
  • the returning aircraft does not carry any passengers
  • PPE is worn by all on board
  • physical distancing is practiced by all on board
  • they have a negative test result within 24 hours of departure

How long will the crew member be quarantined?

The quarantine period lasts for a minimum of 14 full days and up to 24 days after arrival in NSW. However, if a crew member has a COVID-19 test on arrival at the airport (day 0) and does not develop any COVID-19 symptoms, they can depart on another flight leaving Australia before the end of their quarantine period.

If the crew member declines to be tested for COVID-19 during their quarantine period, they will be required to remain in the quarantine hotel and cannot depart on another flight until the full quarantine period is completed (up to 24 days).
Quarantine and testing requirements for flight crew are governed by the current Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order. Self-isolation requirements for persons diagnosed with COVID-19, and their close contacts, are governed by Public Health (COVID-19 Self Isolation) Order. Further information about NSW Public Health Orders is available on the NSW Health website.

What will be the charges for the quarantine hotel?

Hotel quarantine costs for flight crew will charged on a pro-rata basis to the employer.

Will there be any penalties if a crew member tests positive? (e.g. loss of flights or decreased passenger capacity)

There are no penalties for airlines or for individual crew members who test positive, provided that they comply with any NSW Health direction to quarantine, and other requirements outlined in the NSW Public Health Orders.

Will positioning (deadheading) crew be treated as a passenger or crew from a quarantine and testing perspective?

All cohorts of air crew are considered 'flight crew' under the current Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order and are subject to the same quarantine and testing requirements.  Positioning crew are also considered flight crew under the Order.

A person identifying as a positioning crew member must be in the flight manifest or have a letter from their employer or the airline they are flying for. They must also have documentary evidence of the flight, including the date of the flight on which they will depart Australia. If they are unable to meet these requirements, they will be considered as passengers and subject to mandatory quarantine in a government quarantine facility for a minimum of 14 days.

Information about how to ensure a positioning crew member is recognised as flight crew by Australian Border Force is available in the factsheet NSW quarantine information for non resident flight crew.

Are cargo crew affected?

All cohorts of air crew are considered ‘flight crew’ under the current Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order and are subject to the same quarantine and testing requirements, regardless of whether they crew passengers or cargo flights.

Are positioning (deadheading) cargo crew affected?

All cohorts of air crew are considered ‘flight crew’ under the current Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order and are subject to the same quarantine and testing requirements. Positioning crew are also considered flight crew under the Order.

Information about how to ensure a positioning crew member is recognised as flight crew by Australian Border Force is available in the factsheet NSW quarantine information for non resident flight crew.

Will crew members with a negative COVID-19 test result be allowed to leave the hotel?

Crew with a negative test result will be required to remain in the quarantine hotel until they depart on another flight leaving Australia. If they are not departing on another flight leaving Australia, they must remain in the quarantine hotel until the end of the quarantine period (minimum 14 days).

Are there any exceptions to the requirement to be tested on arrival?

A class exemption is in place for 'quick turnaround' flights that are transiting through NSW to an overseas destination. Crew and passengers on these flights are not required to be tested on arrival, provided that they do not leave the aircraft in NSW. Passengers are permitted to board these flights in NSW. This is subject to certain conditions that are specified in the exemption.

Otherwise, requests for exemption to testing requirements under the current Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order will need to be considered on a case by case basis. All applications for exemption must be submitted via the Exemptions Service Now portal.

Are airlines permitted to med-evac their crew should they be found positive?

A crew member who has tested positive will be permitted to depart on another flight after they have quarantined for the required period of time, as determined by NSW Health, and further testing has confirmed that they are no longer infectious.

In extraordinary circumstances, crew members who test positive may be given an exemption to depart NSW before they have completed quarantine. Any requests of this kind will be assessed by a NSW Health medical review panel on a case by case basis.

Does the crew member need to be tested if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine overseas?

At the current time, flight crew are required to have a COVID-19 test on arrival in NSW regardless of vaccination status. This is because vaccinations are not always effective and not all of the Australian community are vaccinated yet.


Current as at: Monday 8 March 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW