By Benjamin Pham
Qantas Enacts Temporary Employee Stand-down Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
Summer travel demand continues to surge but will eventually decline as the leisure travel season comes to end as Fall is right around the corner. Several major countries that are usually tourist hotspots eased entry restrictions to reopen their borders and alleviated visitation and tourism limitations. In response, many carriers resumed long-haul operations and returned widebody aircraft to service. However, the severe effects of the Covid-19 ordeal loom in Australia causing domestic border closures to remain in place and international, long-haul flights to be limited. As a result, Qantas – the country’s flag carrier – expects to stand down 2,500 employees within the company’s group.
The notable Oneworld carrier plans to enact the stand down for approximately two months, affecting all of the airline’s and its subsidiary, Jetstar’s domestic pilots, cabin crew and airport employees in New South Wales – a key territory in the domestic route network – and surrounding territories. Additionally, Qantas arranged its stand down to provide employees with a two-week notice before the withdraw begins.
“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we’re now faced with an extended period of reduced flying and that means no work for a number of our people,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said. “Qantas and Jetstar have gone from operating almost 100 percent of their usual domestic flying in May to less than 40 percent in July because of lockdowns in three states.”
Sydney in New South Wales upheld and extended Covid-19 restrictions, and neighboring territories or states closed their borders to domestic movement. As a result, Qantas plans to use the stand down to minimize costs and maximize revenue as domestic travel experiences a noticeable drop. During the stand-down, no jobs are expected to be lost and pay will continue until mid-August.
Australia’s ongoing border closures and stringent entry requirements are continuing to affect more than domestic tourism and travel. While Qantas’ domestic operations are predominately affected, long-haul flights are hindered from entering the country due to low passenger load factors, prompting route suspensions and termination.
American, a fellow Oneworld member and airline partner, recently revealed it will remove its Los Angeles-Sydney route from its flight schedule from September through the summer of 2022. Due to the uncertainty of Australia’s border reopening, the carrier is unsure when flights to Sydney will fully return to full capacity, especially with the widespread fear of a new Delta variant from COVID-19. However, back home in New South Wales, Sydney’s borders are expected to be closed for another two months due to the outbreaks.
“The challenge around opening international borders remains. There are still several thousand Qantas and Jetstar crew who normally fly internationally and who have been on long periods of stand down since the pandemic began. Higher vaccination rates are also key to being able to fly overseas again, and finally getting all our people back to work,” Joyce added.
Evidently, Qantas has come face-to-face with one of the many obstacles from the ongoing Covid-19 dilemma. Now the airline must be patient and tread cautiously to overcome the restrictions and rebuild its route network through fully employing all of its crew members and staff.
There’s no question that passengers want to utilize the remaining time of leisure travel, and Qantas wants to be the carrier to serve them. However, some are still anxious to return to the skies and travel between territories and countries.