Qantas has used its last A380 out of the Victorville desert boneyard to mitigate the effects of a strike by refuellers at Melbourne Airport.
The national carrier flew VH-OQL, fully fuelled, from Sydney to Melbourne on Tuesday to help fill up smaller aircraft. The superjumbo has yet to fly a single commercial flight post-COVID.
The plan appears to have worked with just five Qantas services out of the Victorian capital cancelled today, and average delays across all airlines at the airport at less than 20 minutes.
It comes after the TWU said on Monday the refuellers would strike for 24 hours over what they say is their members being asked to work longer shifts but without better pay and conditions.
The Flying Kangaroo is not directly involved in the talks with third-party supplier Rivet but was likely to be the carrier most affected by any potential action, alongside others such as Australian Air Express and DHL.
The TWU, which is representing the workers, said it had been locked in negotiations for 12 months and argued staff were facing increased workloads and responsibilities but without better pay and conditions to match.
The union’s local assistant branch secretary, Mem Suleyman, said this week, “For a year, Rivet refuellers have tried to reach a fair agreement but have instead been faced with base wage freezes which impact their pay now and long into the future.
“In the current cost-of-living crisis, it is unacceptable to expect workers to pick up extra responsibilities and work harder, faster and longer to make ends meet.
“These are workers in one of the most dangerous jobs in the airport, yet they are being pushed to the limit while pay and conditions fail to attract more workers to share the load.
“Although protected industrial action is always a last resort, these workers know it is the only option left to bring the company to a fair agreement.”
Suleyman accused Qantas CEO Alan Joyce of “gloating” about its $1 billion half-year profits and said staff were “struggling under the pressure”.
Australian Aviation first reported last month how Qantas would welcome back its seventh A380 into service imminently.
VH-OQL was in the Victorville boneyard until December when it then flew to Abu Dhabi for its refit and then onwards to Sydney last month.
The Flying Kangaroo grounded its entire fleet of 12 A380s during the pandemic, with most sent to the Californian desert.
The business has been slowly returning them to active service, though plans to scrap two permanently.
VH-OQB, VH-OQD, VH-OQH, VH-OQK, VH-OQJ, and now VH-OQG have returned to active operations, but VH-OQC remains in the US.
VH-OQA and VH-OQI are currently in Abu Dhabi receiving a cabin upgrade, but VH-OQF has already been dismantled, with speculation that it will be joined on the scrap heap by VH-OQE.