The measure was introduced in response to Australia’s current lockdowns and domestic border closures.
New South Wales’ ongoing Covid-19 outbreak and the travel restrictions put in place by all other Australian states and territories have forced the Qantas Group to take drastic measures. Around 2,500 frontline Qantas and Jetstar employees will be stood down for an estimated two months, as a “temporary measure” to deal with a significant drop in flying over this period, but the company said that no job losses are expected.
The decision, which was first announced yesterday, will directly impact domestic pilots, cabin crew, and airport workers, mostly in New South Wales but also in other states given the nature of airline networks. Employees will be given two weeks’ notice before the stand down takes effect, with pay continuing until mid-August.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement, “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.” He added that recent lockdowns in three states had resulted in thousands of cancelled flights, with Qantas and Jetstar going “from operating almost 100 percent of their usual domestic flying in May to less than 40 percent in July.”
The airline boss also expressed hope that domestic flying would rebound to 50 to 60 percent of normal levels once travel restrictions were dropped for South Australia and Victoria and the current outbreak in Brisbane is brought under control. He acknowledged it would take some more time for services to resume to and from Australia’s largest city. “Based on current case numbers,” Joyce said, “it’s reasonable to assume that Sydney’s borders will be closed for at least another two months.”
Still, the Qantas Group chief tried to strike a more positive note, comparing the current situation to the same period last year, when more than 20,000 employees were stood down and most of the group’s aircraft put in hibernation for months on end. He added that several thousand Qantas and Jetstar international flight crews have been on long periods of stand down since the pandemic began, and said getting inoculated against the virus would pave the way for domestic recovery and the eventual return of international flying. “The vaccine rollout means the end is in sight and the concept of lockdowns will be a thing of the past … higher vaccination rates are also key to being able to fly overseas again, and finally getting all our people back to work,” Joyce said.