COVID-19: Pregnant Jetstar passenger says airline failing to check vaccine passes, felt 'unsafe' on flight amid suspected anti-vaxxers

A pregnant woman who flew on a Jetstar flight from Auckland to Wellington last week claims staff were not regularly checking vaccine passes despite the threat of Omicron.

She's worried the variant of COVID-19 will be spread from Auckland around the country on Jetstar flights due to the alleged lack of safety measures. 

The passenger, who wishes to remain unnamed, said there appeared to be anti-vaxxers on her flight and she suspected they were travelling to the capital to join the ongoing protests outside of Parliament.

"They were wearing those 'Wake Up New Zealand' T-shirts and weren't really wearing their masks - some had them under their chin, some didn't have them on at all," the woman told Newshub.

"I'm 20 weeks pregnant and I felt particularly unsafe on this flight. When I asked about their process for checking [vaccine passes] in the departure lounge, I was told it was none of my business and I could just not go on the plane if I felt unsafe."

A spokesperson for Jetstar told Newshub that the airline requires all customers travelling domestically aged 12 years and 3 months and above to be fully vaccinated or have a negative result from a supervised COVID-19 rapid antigen test up to 72 hours prior to departure.

They added that all customers "are required to complete a pre-flight health and vaccination declaration at the time of check-in and spot checks of certificates or pre departure test results are taking place across all airports in New Zealand".

However, the concerned passenger claimed she got mixed messages about the company's process and no one appeared to be having their vaccine pass checked.

"It was really unclear what the process is with Jetstar. When we checked in, there was a declaration you ticked if you wanted to say you had a vaccine pass. So I ticked it, but I didn't think that would be the end of it, I thought you'd also have to show it," she said. 

"When I asked staff if everybody had their vaccine passes checked, I got really varied information. One said 'yes, everyone has been checked'. Another said 'no, nobody has been checked and we can't assure you anybody has been checked'. Then another said they do spot checks randomly and only do a very small percentage of passengers.

"When I asked if they checked if people had negative COVID tests, they said no they definitely hadn't. It was very confusing and quite confronting."

It's not the first time passengers have expressed concerns about the system of declarations and spot checks to enforce current COVID-19 travel regulations. 

After police attended an angry confrontation in Wellington Airport in December, a spokesperson for COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed it is "up to each individual to make sure they are aware of the requirements and that they follow them".

Transport operators, such as Jetstar, are able to determine what level of checking is practicable for their service, in line with passenger requirements and their own conditions of carriage.

Jetstar believes its system of declarations and spot checks is actually stricter than what is currently required by the Government, but the woman didn't feel it was enforced strongly enough.

"Jetstar has no trouble enforcing their baggage restriction policy, they're very strict if you're a kilo over that, so I don't see why they wouldn't be able to enforce the COVID rules," the concerned passenger told Newshub.

"It seems pretty bad considering the protests happening in Wellington, that they could be bringing people down for those who could easily not be allowed to travel if they haven't been tested. We asked people around us and they hadn't been checked for their vaccine passes either."

Rival airline Air New Zealand has a strict system in place that requires all domestic passengers to show their vaccine pass or a negative COVID-19 test result in order to board a flight.

Air NZ is also not serving food and drink on domestic flights amid the Omicron outbreak, but Jetstar has it available as a pre-purchase service.

Jetstar's current rules also state that face masks are mandatory on all flights and are available at departure gates for customers, as is the case with Air NZ.