Qantas management has decided international cabin crews will be accommodated overnight in Hong Kong rather than Tokyo for flights from today onwards, the Flight Attendants Union has confirmed to Australian Business Traveller.
"The truth is, some [flight attendants] are personally concerned, and it's quite natural that their family members are also concerned about them going up to Japan, with what's going on," said Michael Mijatov, Secretary, International Division, Flight Attendants Association of Australia.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued a "do not travel" alert for the tsunami-hit Miyagi prefecture, and "reconsider your need for travel" for the Chiba prefecture (which includes Haneda Airport) and Tokyo and surrounds.
"Qantas has just announced that they won't keep crew overnight in Tokyo, and not on the basis that there's imminient danger to people, but on the basis that aftershocks are still being felt in Tokyo, and there's been disruptions to power and telecommunications," Mijatov told Australian Business Traveller.
Mijatov said the union was staying in contact with Qantas at least once a day on the safety situation for flight attendants flying in and out of Japan, and said that since the Australian Government hadn't issued a blanket travel warning for Japan other than to "be aware of your personal security at all times", there was no current cause for alarm.
"We don't have any concerns about Qantas — in the circumstances, they're doing their utmost to keep crew informed of what's going on," he said.
Australian Business Traveller has requested comment from Qantas on whether the exchange of flight crews in Hong Kong rather than Tokyo will have any effect on flight times or durations.
German international airline Lufthansa yesterday also pulled crew out of Japan, accommodating them overnight in Korea instead. It also stopped flying its flagship Airbus A380 into the country, which is struggling to control several of its damaged nuclear reactors.
Lufthansa also said it had started scanning its planes for signs of radioactivity after returning from Japan. Qantas and Jetstar said they were not doing that, with Qantas adding it was in full compliance with all Australian Government requirements and not required by law to do so.
Although a small amount of radiation was detected in Tokyo today, as we showed in our map of the Japan danger spots this afternoon, Tokyo and Haneda Airport are 250 km from the leaking nuclear power plants, and Tokyo's main international hub, Narita Airport, is 210 km away.
Nonetheless, neighbouring countries are taking precautions. Malaysia is scanning travellers from Japan coming into Kuala Lumpur airport for radioactivity.
Dan is a tech enthusiast who frequently qualifies for enhanced airport security screening due to the number of cords and gadgets stuffed into his cabin bag.