It seems like every day a country changes its coronavirus regulations, causing travelers to rush home from vacations early or expats to find themselves stranded abroad.
But a recent flight in Australia shows how state-by-state guidelines can also make flying domestically uncertain.
Virgin Australia flight VA469 was in the air going from Perth to Brisbane on April 23 when state regulations in Australia changed.
Western Australia announced a three-day lockdown for the Perth and Peel region, and Queensland (where Brisbane is) followed up by declaring that anyone coming to the state from Western Australia would be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
This should not have been an issue for VA469, as it was due to arrive before the ban kicked in at midnight.
But due to a mechanical issue in Perth, the plane took off more than five hours late and landed in Brisbane after 1 a.m. on the 24th, according to reporting from CNN affiliate 9 News.
The arriving passengers were told they would have to spend 14 days quarantining in a hotel room instead of being able to simply walk off the plane and leave the airport.
“We know prevention measures can be inconvenient, but they are necessary to protect Queenslanders,” Dr. Jeannette Young, the state’s Chief Health Officer, told local press.
The Queensland government announced that it would cover the quarantine costs of VA469 passengers. In the end, they only had to spend three days in quarantine.
The outbreak in Perth was contained to just three people, prompting Queensland officials to lift its quarantine rule ahead of schedule. On April 27, the travelers were allowed to leave once they tested negative for Covid-19.
“Had Virgin been formally notified of this change prior to its departure we would have delayed the departure of the aircraft and given passengers the option to stay in Perth,” a representative from Virgin Australia told CNN via email.
“This would have been in the passengers’ and Virgin Australia’s interests, and is what we have done in the past with border changes.”
Australia has seen fewer than 30,000 Covid-19 cases and just 910 deaths during the pandemic as of April 28, thanks to its swift border closures.
The country remains closed to international travelers, however a long-awaited “travel bubble” between Australia and New Zealand began April 19.