Qantas has apologized after 150 passengers were forced to sleep at Geraldton Airport terminal on Tuesday night when two flights from Perth were diverted due to heavy fog.
The embattled airline came under fire on Wednesday when photos emerged of passengers sleeping in the terminal the night before without blankets or heaters.
As temperatures dropped to 4.8C, disgruntled passengers complained that they were given only minimal access to food and were not offered any means to keep them warm.
“We’ve been sitting in the terminal here at Geraldton with no heaters, minimal food, they had coffee and stuff out for us, no offers of blankets or anything to keep us warm,” passenger Andrew Dymock told the media.
“All of our check-in luggage was on the plane; my jacket, hoodie and everything warm was in there so I’ve basically been sitting here for seven hours with a shirt on and it hasn’t been above 10 degrees all night. “
Qantas – which has come under sustained criticism for poor standards since illegally firing staff during the pandemic – said it was unable to find last minute hotels for the stranded passengers.
“A number of flights were diverted away from Perth overnight due to fog around the airport making it unsafe to land,” a Qantas spokeswoman said.
“The crew on two flights that had diverted to Geraldton were unable to continue to Perth due to reaching the limit on the hours they can work.
“We attempted to find last minute accommodation for all customers of these flights but unfortunately due to a shortage of available hotel rooms, customers stayed in the airport terminal overnight.
“We apologize to these customers and we thank them for their understanding. We know this would have been an uncomfortable night but the conditions were not safe to land in Perth and our crew could not safely continue once the fog had lifted.
“Customers are traveling to Perth this morning.”
Social media users were not buying the explanation, with people arguing that if another company was responsible for the scandal there would be calls for their CEO to resign.
“If a debacle as big as Qantas had last night (making people sleep in regional airports) happened to an AFL club the media would be all over the coach and CEO to resign. Why isn’t the media all over Qantas and their CEO,” one user wrote.
Another frustrated passenger, Kim, told 6PR Breakfast that in six-degree weather many of those stranded were forced to sleep on the floor.
“I got about an hour’s sleep I think after sleeping at the airport in Geraldton. Not ideal,” Kim told the radio station.
She also said Qantas has not been in contact with passengers.
“Nothing. I understand that they have put out press releases saying they attempted to get us accommodation and that they apologize profusely,” she said.
“None of that’s true. They just left us at Geraldton airport.”
The planes which departed from Broome and Newman in the Pilbara were forced to wait it out in the mid-west before traveling to Perth on Wednesday morning.