One day after Australia’s flag carrier Qantas forecasted a half-year profit of between AU$1.35 and AU$1.45 billion ($910.1 – $977.5 million), the season of goodwill has come to an abrupt end. With profits soaring, it’s not surprising that staff are edgy about getting a fair share of the booty, which erupted spectacularly today with cabin crew.
What’s the problem?
While Qantas has prepared well for the peak summer season and lifted its performance back to pre-COVID levels, if cabin crew walk out, its operations will be thrown into chaos. And with profits of this size, the passengers’ frustrations will flow to the airline and its CEO Alan Joyce, sending it back to the unhappy place it was in earlier this year. In a ballot of flight attendants organized by the Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA), 99% of the 1,200 cabin crew rejected a Qantas proposal and voted to take industrial action.
According to the Australian Financial Review, FAAA secretary Teri O’Toole said that flight attendants wanted to avoid disrupting Christmas holiday travel but that Qantas needed to come up with a better offer to prevent strikes. She added:
“Cabin crew have worked through the pandemic, have dealt with unhappy passengers due to the issues with baggage, canceled flights and all of the troubles that Qantas has had – they have felt the brunt of this. This should be a time of recognition for the hard work they’ve done, not punishment for the pandemic.”
“With this ballot outcome, flight attendants have declared enough is enough. Qantas can’t keep bullying them into accepting poor pay deals while threatening their jobs, while forecasting multi-billion dollar profits and huge executive bonuses.”
Simple Flying has contacted Qantas for comment, and we will update this article with any reply we receive from the airline.
After two years of wage freezes, the FAAA has been in negotiations with Qantas for a new workplace agreement covering cabin crews. Qantas has offered 3% annual pay increases and more than AU$7,000 ($4,700) in bonuses and 1,000 Qantas shares worth AU$6.19 ($4.18) each at today’s close.
New aircraft mean new duty rosters
There are also issues around duty periods for new longer-range aircraft like the Airbus A321XLR, which Qantas wants to extend from 9.45 hours to 12 hours, and up to 14 hours to cover disruptions. Rest time between duty would be reduced to ten hours when flights are disrupted, and no other crew is available. Qantas says these shift changes are the same as at other Australian domestic carriers, which the FAAA has signed-off on, and that crew will receive overtime pay where applicable.
This dispute has been simmering for some time and is reaching the point where it looks like the two sides won’t agree. With the Qantas group, which covers both Qantas and Jetstar, announcing how well it is doing financially, it has pushed the debate to a higher level, with a corresponding boost in the rhetoric from the FAAA. The overriding issue for the airline is that it has reached agreements with various other worker groups, including recently with Jetstar pilots, based on similar principles as those offered to flight attendants.
Photo: Getty Images
The reality is that strike action by flight attendants has already been authorized, and so long as the FAAA gives Qantas three days’ notice, cabin crew can walk off the job. The union previously promised a measured approach to industrial action to minimize the impacts on Aussie travelers, despite its support for strikes. O’Toole says that flight attendants just want Qantas to come back to the table with a fair offer that doesn’t send their pay and conditions backwards.
The union has not set any time frame or dates for strike action nor a deadline for Qantas to come back with a better offer.
Do you think flight attendants should go on strike?
Sources: AFR, Travelweekly.com
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Full Service Carrier
- Brisbane Airport, Melbourne Airport, Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport
- Year Founded:
- Alan Joyce