Don’t get me wrong. I used to be totally in love with Qantas. It used to be a wonderful airline with highest standards of safety and service, and a very competent management team, and was the major – the dominant – airline in Australia, both domestically and internationally.
But that was then. Now it is an airline that is struggling with way too many mechanical problems with its planes (in particular, the engines on its 747s), and rather than having a new fleet, its fleet is starting to look decidedly long in the tooth. As for being the dominant airline, for the first time ever it seems that Australia is now viably supporting more than two domestic airlines, and Qantas’ share of international travel to and from Australia has dropped to a mere 18%.
But, most of all (and as reflected in these comments) its management is embarked on a peculiar journey to eviscerate Qantas’ essential Australian roots, seeking instead to try and beat the intent of the Australian legislation that requires Qantas to remain primarily Australian owned and operated by opening off-shore subsidiaries in other countries.
The main reason for this is a largely specious allegation that Qantas can’t afford to pay high wages to Australian staff.
For the last some time, Qantas has had ongoing issues with its labor unions, who of course are appalled to see management not only trying to reduce its Australian labor costs as far as possible, but who are also trying to off-shore as many jobs as possible. In some cases, this off-shoring may truly be affecting the airline’s safety standards.
Some commentators argue that the problems with Qantas’ 747 engines are the result of Qantas no longer maintaining its own engines but out-sourcing (and off-shoring) that work, and some commentators have said that the earlier problem with the A380 engines could have been minimized if Qantas was doing its own maintenance on those engines too. Whatever the reason, Qantas has had a string of ‘good luck’ engine failures – I say ‘good luck’ because they have generally been reasonably close to an airport where the plane can go and safely land. One can only speculate what could happen if an engine failure occurred over the water, hours and thousands of miles from an alternate emergency airport.
For the last few weeks, Qantas has been trying to mount a public relations offensive against its unions, by blaming the unions and their various industrial actions for making the airline take some planes out of service. But the unions says the planes which were taken out of service were not ones that its members were failing to maintain, but ones which Qantas planned to take out of service anyway to sell!
Qantas suddenly, last night, and with no prior warning, announced that it was halting all its operations, everywhere in the world, due to its labor problems. No further flights will operate anywhere, for an unknown amount of time.
Is Qantas really forced to do this by its unions? Most observers feel that is absolutely not the case. Rather it seems that Qantas is trying to bully both its unions and the Australian government, trying to create ill informed public pressure to cause the government to force the unions to go back to work and obediently behave themselves. Alas, early indications are that although Australia is governed by a slightly left of center (Democrat type) party at present, the government is caving in to Qantas’ bullying and will endeavor to help Qantas succeed at this high stakes gamble.
Most reasonable people should be beyond appalled at Qantas’ actions. All airlines have as a paramount duty the obligation to take all actions possible to remain as fully operational as possible, no matter what weather, mechanical, or industrial problems they are encountering. Other airlines (such as Qantas’ close partner airline, BA) go to great lengths to minimize the impacts of union strikes.
But Qantas, rather than minimizing the impacts of current labor problems (that are at least equally of their own making) has decided to magnify them and close down the entire airline’s passenger operations.
Here’s a suggestion to Qantas : Stop paying your senior management team during your lockout. Oh – did I mention that the airline’s CEO has just received a massive pay rise?
And a suggestion for the Australian government : Don’t force the unions to do anything. But consider re-nationalizing Qantas and give it a competent caring management team once more.
Qantas’ actions are inexcusable.