The union representing Qantas pilots believes the airline’s decision to start hiring pilots again is just the “tip of the iceberg”, given the improved performance of the Flying Kangaroo.
Qantas on Tuesday said it planned to hire 170 new pilots over the next three years, as it prepared to introduce the Boeing 787-9 to the fleet from the 2017/18 financial year.
The Australian and International Pilots’ Association (AIPA) president and Qantas pilot Nathan Safe said the move represented an overdue investment in Qantas’s international operations, which posted strong earnings growth and operating margins in the first half of 2015/16.
“The outlook for our members will always be brighter if they are flying for a profitable airline which is expanding its network and bringing on new aircraft types,” Safe said in a statement.
“We believe this will be the tip of the iceberg as far as pilot recruitment is concerned now that Qantas has made substantial improvements to its bottom line.”
In July 2015, 88 per cent of AIPA’s 1,300 members voted to accept a new four-year enterprise bargaining agreement. Although the deal did not significantly change the terms and conditions relating to Qantas’s existing fleet, notwithstanding an 18-month wage freeze followed by an annual three per cent increase, the package did include some new provisions on potential 787 flying.
It moved Qantas a step closer to eventually confirming an order for eight Boeing 787-9s, given the airline had established three criteria that needed to be met before it would consider taking up any of its options and purchase rights for the 787-9, namely Qantas International’s return to sustainable profitability, repaying $1 billion of debt and establishing appropriate staff conditions to ensure the business case for the new aircraft type stacked up.
“Our members approved the longhaul EBA last year in the knowledge that Qantas would then take the decision to upgrade its fleet,” Safe said.
“This aircraft has the capability to open up opportunities for new direct services, providing new opportunities for Qantas and its pilots.
“We expect current Qantas pilots will be keen to make the transition to the Dreamliner.”