COVID-19

Qantas warns of return to stand-downs

Flight cancellation data released on Wednesday showed more than 9000 flights were cancelled in July, including more than 6000 by Qantas and Jetstar. In an email to staff, Mr Joyce said their total flying had dropped below 40 per cent of pre-Covid capacity and an extension to the lockdowns could be problematic for the group. “If that happened, we’d be faced with continued levels of low flying,” Mr Joyce said.“We’re not at the point of requiring stand-downs in our domestic operations at this stage. But to be honest, we can’t rule it out if multiple states keep their borders closed for extended periods.”He said if that happened he expected the government would provide a basic level of income support, similar to the JobKeeper payment that ended in March. “Hopefully this scenario doesn’t come to pass. But we’ve always been upfront through this crisis and it’s important for you to know the challenges we’re facing,” said Mr Joyce. The overall tone of the email was fairly positive, with Mr Joyce reassuring workers that what was currently being experienced was temporary, because “unlike last winter there’s now a Covid vaccine rolling out”. “That means this cycle of restrictions and lockdowns will break. In other words, there is an end point to all of this and it’s not far away,” he said. The message came as rival Rex announced the temporary suspension of its Boeing 737 operations on several capital city and Gold Coast routes. Some regional routes were also being frozen or temporarily reduced until “state government-imposed border closures and/or lockdowns ended”. Rex has taken delivery of six Boeing 737s and had expected to add another four to its fleet by the year’s end. The Australian Services Union said the current situation was “as bad if not worse than last year’s lockdown and economic fallout” and the federal government should urgently reintroduce JobKeeper. ASU assistant secretary Emeline Gaske said the livelihoods of thousands of Australian workers and their families were hanging in the balance. “JobKeeper is the only thing that will save their jobs,” said Ms Gaske.She said Qantas workers had already made massive sacrifices throughout this pandemic and were now again faced with stand downs.“Due to last year’s lockdown many Qantas workers have already sold their house, drained their superannuation savings or liquidated other assets,” Ms Gaske said.“Workers have been hanging on by a thread and they simply can’t afford delay – we need swift, decisive action from the Federal Government or people will slip through the net.”At the height of the Covid crisis last year, Qantas had more than 20,000 employees stood down. About 7500 people who usually work in the airline’s international business remain stood down.

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