I’m not sure, but I suspect this question may have been prompted by this news story –

  • Graeme Powell, ‘Qantas passenger left with second-degree burns after flight to Gold Coast’, ABC Radio Perth (0nline), 24 April 2018; and
  • James Carmody, ‘Qantas apologises after passenger suffers second-degree burns on flight to Gold Coast’ ABC News (Online), 1 May 2018.

That story reports on an incident where a passenger says:

… a flight attendant was handing her a cup of tea when the woman spilt boiling water on her legs…

“I asked for a cup of tea and she passed it over to me and it spilt onto my lap,” she said.

“I was in shock and a lot of pain.

“I was standing up to try to dry it, but she [the flight attendant] had already moved on to the next row of people and I got no medical assistance, no help throughout the entire flight.”

Blistering set in before landing

[The passenger] said she later mentioned she had burns to the flight attendant, and was unimpressed with the response.

“She went ‘oh’, and that was all she said,” Karina said.

“I kept trying to tell the flight attendants what had happened, but again they didn’t do anything [to help me] on the flight.

“By the time I got off the plane everything had already started to blister.”

… she went straight to hospital and medical staff told her that if she had received treatment for the burn immediately it would not have been as severe.

As I say I don’t know if today’s question was inspired by that story but even if it wasn’t it’s good context for the question which arose when my correspondent was:

Discussing duty of care with someone in regard to the delivery of first aid on a domestic air carrier.   Do staff have a DoC to deliver first aid if a passenger is injured or falls ill whilst in the plane?

The answer is clearly ‘yes’.   A passenger on a plane is not a stranger to the airline but a customer.  Further they are vulnerable in that they are subject to the direction and control of the crew.  If there’s an injury they can’t access the first aid equipment, they can’t call for assistance etc. They depend on the crew to manage the incident in the air.  The cabin crew may spend most of their time serving tea and coffee but their real job is to provide for the safety of the passengers.

There are also prescribed obligations upon the airlines with respect to first aid (see Accessing medical supplies on an aircraft (August 9, 2017)).  The aircraft is also a work place and work health and safety laws require that a workplace have appropriate first aid plans in place and that they are activated when required – see Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (Cth) r 42 ‘Duty to provide first aid’.


It is axiomatic that aircrew of a domestic airline have a duty to deliver first aid if a passenger is injured or falls ill whilst in the plane.