A very brave and unprecedented move by Australian airline Qantas as it announced the immediate grounding of its entire global fleet indefinitely until unions representing pilots and ground staff reach an agreement with the airline over pay and conditions.
There was at least some good news as the action was announced, Qantas stating that “Aircraft currently in the air will complete their flights”.
The dispute is expected to cost Qantas A$20m a day and will affect 70,000 passengers worldwide and 600 flights on one of the country’s biggest travel weekends. Among those affected are 17 Commonwealth leaders who had been attending a summit hosted by Australia’s prime minister Julia Gillard and are now stranded in Perth.
Relations between the unions and Qantas management began to deteriorate in August after the airline announced plans for restructuring and possibly moving some operations to Asia and the airline has been hit by a series of costly strikes. Baggage handlers, engineers and pilots have all been involved in industrial action which the company says is costing A$15m a week.