Business, Finance & Economics

Qantas grounds its entire fleet, stranding passengers worldwide (VIDEO)


Qantas planes, with flying kangaroo tailfins, line Sydney airport — more so now that pilots and engineers are striking.


Torsten Blackwood

Qantas Airways has grounded its entire fleet of aircraft over a labor dispute.

That's right.

Hands up those of us needing to catch a flight home any time soon.

Here's the official explanation, on the Qantas website

Qantas will stop all domestic and international flights from 5 p.m. (AEDT) on Saturday 29 October until further notice. This is in response to the damaging industrial action by three unions - the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), the Australian International Pilots Association (AIPA) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU).

Here's the unofficial version, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC):

Protracted pay negotiations fell out spectacularly on Saturday afternoon, with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce grounding more than 100 flights around the world.

Qantas has been fighting with three unions representing pilots, ground staff and engineers for months, but Mr Joyce says he was forced to make the "unbelievable decision" because negotiations were not working.

In August, Joyce reportedly announced a major restructuring of Qantas that included establishing two new subsidiary carriers in Asia, using cheaper labor, and 1,000 job losses.

The unions are insisting on equal pay and conditions for their new Asia-based coworkers, a demand Joyce claims will kill the airline

Yes, that's the same Alan Joyce who only this week was granted a 71 percent bonus by Qantas shareholders, taking his total salary to $5 million a year. But that's neither here nor there. 

Meanwhile, the travel plans of at least 80,000 people around the world have been thrown into chaos by Joyce's decision to ground more than 100 flights, according to the ABC.

Joyce said that he was forced into taking such drastic action "because the unions threatened to carry on an industrial campaign until next year," potentially costing the company tens of millions, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The dispute had caused $70 million damage to the airline and would cost $15 million for every week that the dispute dragged on.

The ABC canvassed the opinions of "confused passengers" lining up at Qantas sales desks "desperate for information on how they are going to get home."

"We're just ready to board and it's all become very chaotic and we don't know where we're staying tonight," one passenger told the ABC at Sydney airport.

"It's not being fair and rational in my opinion. You should be able to talk these things out, not do things like this," another stranded passenger said at a Melbourne airport.


Joyce's response?

''They are trashing our strategy and our brand,'' he reportedly said, talking about those pilots, aircraft maintenance people and baggage handlers behind the industrial action. ''They are deliberately destabilizing the company and there is no end in sight.''

Perhaps the average traveler, including Down Under -- hoping to get home this week from Sydney to Brisbane -- can take some small consolation in the promise that Qantas executives and the board will not pay themselves during the lockout.

Probably not.