Airline officials handling bags ‘aggravate airport chaos’, union says
- Qantas’ plan to ease travel chaos is “in fact likely to make airport chaos worse”, a union has said.
- The airline has asked senior staff in its office to volunteer as baggage handlers at airports.
- The Australian Transport Workers Union has warned that this could lead to safety incidents.
An Australian transport union said airlines like Qantas Airways, which asked office workers to help them at understaffed airports, were “in fact likely to make airport chaos worse”.
The Australian airline wants at least 100 managers and executives to help it from mid-August for three months. Their duties would include loading, unloading, sorting and scanning bags.
“Throwing inexperienced workers into the aviation mix is actually likely to add to airport chaos, especially given the serious risk of injury and security incidents if workers are not trained and experienced. appropriately,” Michael Kaine, national secretary of the Australian Transport Workers Union, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
He told Australian Aviation the move would likely throw airports “in greater disarray”.
The airline responded by telling the Herald that executives would undergo “the same standard of training as any new hire”.
Passengers faced a summer of travel chaos around the world due to a combination of understaffing, growing travel demand, technical issues and strikes. This has led to flight delays and cancellations, lost luggage and huge check-in and security queues. A baggage handler told The Guardian Australia in July that one in 10 pieces of baggage fail to arrive on Qantas flights at Sydney Airport.
Qantas made headlines in 2020 after replacing 2,000 ground staff with outsourced workers, citing the need to cut costs and the impacts of the pandemic on the aviation industry. The Australian federal court ruled that the decision was unlawful, which Qantas appealed but lost. The airline is now trying to appeal to the country’s high court, The Herald reported.
Kaine, the union secretary, told Australian Aviation that Qantas asking office staff for help was an “admission” that the move had “nothing but the utter devastation of what was once the service of trust of Qantas”.
“It’s a shocking insult that nearly 2,000 experienced workers are being forced to sit at home because their jobs have been stolen,” Kaine continued. Qantas told the Herald that data showed outsourced ground handling had a lower rate of safety incidents than in-house handling.
A Qantas spokesperson told Insider on Monday it was making contingency plans because a combination of ongoing COVID-19 cases, a bad flu season and “the tightest labor market in decades” affected its airport operations.
They added that around 200 Qantas office staff have been helping out at airports since Easter.
“We have made it clear that our operational performance did not meet our customers’ expectations or the standards we expect of ourselves – and that we have made every effort to improve our performance,” the spokesperson said.