Qantas is to stand down 2,500 frontline employees for an estimated two months in response to ongoing Covid outbreaks in Australia.
The carrier said the temporary measure was a result of “a significant drop in flying caused by Covid restrictions in Greater Sydney in particular and the knock-on border closures in all other states and territories”.
Qantas stressed that no job losses were expected, with employees being given two week’s notice, and company pay continuing until mid-August.
The carrier’s CEO Alan Joyce said that “Based on current case numbers, it’s reasonable to assume that Sydney’s borders will be closed for at least another two months”.
“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,” said Joyce.
“We’ve absorbed a significant amount of cost since these recent lockdowns started and continued paying our people their full rosters despite thousands of cancelled flights.
“Qantas and Jetstar have gone from operating almost 100 per cent of their usual domestic flying in May to less than 40 per cent in July because of lockdowns in three states.
“Hopefully, once other states open back up to South Australia and Victoria in the next week or so, and the current outbreak in Brisbane is brought under control, our domestic flying will come back to around 50 to 60 per cent of normal levels.
Joyce said that although 2,500 employees were being stood down, it was “very different from this time last year when we had more than 20,000 employees stood down and most of our aircraft in hibernation for months on end”.
But he warned that “The challenge around opening international borders remains”.
Qantas had hoped to resume flights to international destinations by the end of October, but this was pushed back to late December, with the move being blamed on delays to Australia’s vaccination rollout.
“There are still several thousand Qantas and Jetstar crew who normally fly internationally and who have been on long periods of stand down since the pandemic began,” said Joyce.
“Higher vaccination rates are also key to being able to fly overseas again, and finally getting all our people back to work.”
Last week Qantas published a statement making clear its stance on Covid-19 vaccines for its employees, stating that vaccination “should be a requirement for all aviation workers in Australia”.