(That said Qantas maintains it lost very few pilots – with most of those that left were the result of the retirement of the Boeing 747 aircraft from its fleet.)
The industry appears to be suffering from a more broad-based meltdown – and is a long way from match fit.
And the situation has been compounded by airline staff having to isolate due to being a close COVID contact. The ‘reserve line’ of pilots have been chewed through, leaving some flights unable to operate unless unrostered or on-leave pilots are prepared to step in.
A Qantas spokesman responded on Tuesday saying, “We have a lot of COVID-19 related absences at the moment, and we’re pulling out all the stops to make sure we can get people to their destinations. The industry is seeing the same challenges, but more severe, around the world, and we’re managing this the best we can.”
While it seems obvious that the airlines have had trouble managing the surge in travelling, it is only two years since they were financially crippled by COVID. Virgin was placed into administration while Qantas boss Alan Joyce grounded the majority of its fleet, and undertook emergency measures to raise capital and increase its debt facilities.
Since then, it has needed to deal with the COVID yo-yo effect – huge swings in passenger demand as international and state borders changed.
But the COVID hangover is causing a degree of havoc that may not be obvious to passengers.
A recent post on a pilot chat room, Qrewroomnoted that on 17 flights they piloted over the past week, there had been delays on all ‘first flights’ waiting for baggage handling and/or catering, that some flights had departed with no catering (and no passenger compensation) and that there had been a wait for pushback vehicles to arrive due to the limited number of operating tugs operating in Sydney.
On another chat site contained a post which said that a labor hire company Swissport had offered a $2,000 sign on bonus in Melbourne for baggage handlers.
The fact that airlines around the world are suffering similarly debilitating issues will be of little comfort to Australian passengers trying to take their Easter holidays.
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