The three person FWA panel in Melbourne commenced an urgent hearing at 10.00pm AEDST on Saturday October 29 and adjourned at 1:20am after hearing from key Qantas executives and from lawyers acting on behalf of the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers of Association (ALAEA). The panel is expected to resume at 2.00pm AEDST on Sunday October 30.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Channel Seven’s Sunrise program this morning that, if the FWA dictates a termination to all industrial action, that would give him the surety he needs to work with CASA to return the airline to the air as soon as possible.
The FWA action was brought by the Federal Government, which is seeking to terminate the grounding and proposed lock out from Qantas and strikes from the three unions under section 424 of the Fair Work Act. A lawyer acting for the Government told the FWA panel that the grounding and protracted industrial action was “likely to cause significant damage to the Australian economy, particularly the aviation and tourism industries.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard earlier backed the action, telling a press conference in Perth: “I believe Australians want to see this sorted out, business wants to see it sorted out, passengers want to see it sorted out, I want to see it sorted out. That’s why we have made the application to Fair Work Australia.”
Meanwhile, AirAsia X has announced that it is offering special fares to passengers affected by the Qantas grounding, with a special $150 per sector outbound fare from its Melbourne, Perth and Gold Coast ports. “For example, it will be possible for these passengers to reach destinations including London and Paris for $300 one way from Australia,” said the airline’s head of commercial, Darren Wright.
Virgin Australia is in talks with its alliance partners including Air New Zealand, Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines to temporarily bring in additional capacity to operate flights. Virgin Australia has already announced that it will offer special fares to Qantas passengers affected by the grounding, but late on September 29 noted that most of its flights for the next few days had already been fully sold out.
Jetstar has advised that its flights are not being impacted by the Qantas grounding and that, while a number of its flights over the weekend are full, that “opportunities to increase capacity to accommodate more passengers are currently being investigated.”
Up to 70,000 passengers are believed to have been stranded across Australia and Qantas’s international ports, with reports that Qantas staff and information services have been overwhelmed by the scale of the grounding and the flow on effects to passengers’ travel plans.
UPDATE: 10.45AM AEDST OCTOBER 30
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce just said on ABC’s Insiders program that if the FWA panel determines that all action must be terminated, that the airline and the unions have 21 days to reach and agreement or they will both have to enter into forced mediation.