Over 200 passengers on a peak hour Qantas flight from Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD) to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (MEL) had to be escorted by federal police after a security breach occurred in SYD.
Flight QF487 from SYD to MEL landed at 20:01 local time September 7, 2022.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the captain soon informed the 225 passengers and crew onboard that security officials would need to take them through the airport because a person had boarded without completing airport security in SYD.
Both the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Victoria Police escorted the passengers who were told they must have their bags checked for a second time by staff at the airport, and that they could not use the toilet.
Qantas flight QF487 Syd – Melb just landed deemed unscreened flight. All 200+ passengers will be escorted by AFP, Vic Police, security – no toilet stops – to security screening. Flight attendant never heard it happening over 20 years flying @Qantas @StephenLongAus @4corners pic.twitter.com/Q73hfvIu2o— Patrick Durkin (@patrickdurkin) September 7, 2022
Financial Review’s Melbourne Bureau chief and deputy editor Patrick Durkin happened to be on the flight and uploaded a photo of passengers in the cabin, presumably after landing in MEL and being told of the situation.
Sydney Airport security breach: what happened?
An anonymous passenger on the flight told Melbourne radio station 3AW that there were up to 60 passengers on the flight who had not gone through the correct screening process at Sydney Airport before boarding the flight to Melbourne.
The passenger boarded a flight to Sydney from Orange Regional Airport (OAG), where there are no security scans in place.
The passenger said that when he arrived in SYD, he, along with other passengers who came from connecting flights from various regional areas, were allowed directly into the airport lounge for their onward flights.
“I reckon there were between 40 and 60 passengers who were all unscreened,” the passenger told 3AW.
Is airport staff shortage the reason for the security breach?
Who is responsible for the airport security breach? The United Workers Union (UWU), which represents airport security workers in Australia, has suggested that staff shortages are responsible for the screening breach at Sydney Airport.
UWU property services coordinator Damien Davie said the public “should be rightly alarmed” that a person could avoid security screening measures at Sydney Airport.
UWU believes that understaffing, lack of proper training and other workload issues mean security is at risk of being compromised.
“The public are being put in safety situations never witnessed before,” Davie told local media.
Certis, Sydney Airport’s head security contractor, reportedly refused to offer JobKeeper to its staff during the pandemic. The union says this has resulted in a shortage of well-trained aviation security guards.
JobKeeper is an Australian government wage subsidy program designed to help businesses affected by the Coronavirus to cover the costs of their employees’ wages, so that more employees can retain their jobs.
What does Qantas say about the security breach?
A Qantas spokesperson said in a statement seen by local media that a passenger boarded the flight to Melbourne after inadvertently passing from an unscreened to a screened part of Sydney Airport.
“As a precaution, all passengers on QF487 were escorted from the aircraft when it landed in Melbourne and taken through the screened part of the airport into the unscreened area – thereby avoiding compromising the secure section of the Melbourne terminal, which would have required all passengers who had already been through security to be rescreened,” the airline spokesperson said.
“We will investigate to understand how this incident occurred, and we apologize for any inconvenience to passengers on the flight,” the spokesperson added.