Business, Finance & Economics

Qantas to resume flights Monday after court ruling (VIDEO)


Qantas airline jets sit grounded on the tarmac at Heathrow airport on October 30, 2011 in London, England.


Matthew Lloyd

Qantas was preparing to resume flights Monday after an Australian arbitration court called an end to strikes and canceled an employee lockout.

Fair Work Australia, the country's industrial regulator, made its ruling ruled early Monday Australian time after the Australian government called an emergency court hearing Saturday night to protect the national economy.

The arbitration court heard more than 14 hours of testimony from the airline, the Australian government and unions, the Associated Press reports.

Qantas on Saturday unexpectedly grounded all of its 108 planes until unions representing pilots and maintenance and ground staff retracted their demands and discontinued strike action.

Workers have held rolling strikes and refused overtime work for weeks out of worry that some of Qantas' 35,000 jobs would be moved overseas in a restructuring plan.

The Qantas grounding disrupted travel for more than 70,000 passengers worldwide.

Over the weekend, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard warned that the Qantas industrial dispute could have serious economic consequences.

Gillard was speaking on the sidelines of the Commonwealth leaders summit in Perth. Around 17 delegations to the "heads of government" meeting were booked to fly home on Qantas.

"The rapid escalation of this dispute today, what we are saying is a circumstance with this industrial dispute that could have implications for our national economy," Gillard told reporters.

The Qantas grounding has hit one sector of the economy immediately and hard.

Australia's tourism industry estimates the financial impact of the Qantas grounding has at $80 million so far, with fears the damage could climb as high as $150 million a day if the dispute — between unions and Qantas management — continues.

“There’s no winners in this, we need Qantas to fly,” said John Lee, the head of the Transport and Tourism Forum, according to the Herald Sun newspaper.

With Australia's "Spring Carnival" racing season in full swing — the highlight of which is the Melbourne Cup, run every year in Melbourne on the first Tuesday in November — the impact of the Qantas groundings may reach $100 million, Lee reportedly said. Numerous package deals to visit Melbourne for the Cup have reportedly been thrown into doubt.

Lee said the greatest impact would be felt by small firms and causal workers, "particularly in northern Australia," which is unreachable except by plane.

“There will be bigger questions about the reliability of our economy and of productivity if we can’t get this resolved quickly,” he said, the Herald Sun reports.

A limited flight schedule could resume Monday afternoon with the approval of aviation regulators, Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said in a statement, the AP reports.

However a backlog of flights could mean further delays for passengers.