Jetstar CEO Bruce Buchanan has denied claims of a toxic culture within Jetstar, amid allegations aired that the airline has a poor fatigue management system during the ongoing Senate inquiry into pilot training standards.
While admitting that there may be isolated incidents of employee disgruntlement, Buchannan largely denied claims of a toxic workplace culture, despite the explosive email tabled in a hearing for Senate enquiry yesterday in which a pilot called on his colleagues to “Toughen up princesses!” amid complaints of pilot fatigue at Jetstar’s Perth base.
“You can’t have a successful growing business that’s achieving everything we are unless customers are coming to us and buying our tickets. You can’t have customers buying our tickets unless they’re comfortable with the product if the atmosphere amongst the service delivery staff is toxic,” Buchanan said, while speaking at a doorstop interview in Sydney on March 31.
Despite the email, which also accused pilots of being “tired” and lazy but not fatigued, Buchanan dismissed the comments as harmless “banter” between Jetstar employees.
“People use colourful language to get across their message. As I said, it doesn’t represent the views of management, but if you look at the facts of the email that he [the unnamed line pilot] was sending to other pilots in Perth – Perth is a relatively small base for us…so it’s a fairly small cohesive team. And I can imagine they all know each other quite well and they can communicate very openly towards each other,” Buchanan continued.
“If pilots have a concern about fatigue, there are formal processes in place, both through Jetstar internally, but also there’s a number of…external regulatory bodies that are specifically set up to investigate these sorts of claims.”
Buchanan reaffirmed Jetstar’s strong internal reporting culture, highlighting the airline’s complaint management system as evidence of this.
“We also have a whistleblower policy that we use with an independent auditor that steps in if anyone feels that…myself or Alan or any of the other senior management aren’t responding to the allegations correctly. And then, in addition, we have two strong independent external regulators which can also take responses directly from staff if they’re concerned about something going on inside the organisation.
“If we were to find any instance of that, where we find any instance of bullying inside the organisation, we’d move very quickly and we wouldn’t take it – we just wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behaviour inside Jetstar.”
Buchanan’s comments came after independent Senator Nick Xenophon tabled the email, sent in January this year, in the inquiry earlier in the day.
“I am concerned that Jetstar and Qantas didn’t know about this email, which I think some people would find quite intimidating in a workplace environment,” Senator Xenophon said.
“I’ve had a number of pilots that I’ve spoken to and their concern is one that they don’t feel that they can speak openly without fear of having adverse repercussions to their careers.”
The Senate committee, which is looking into both pilot safety and training procedures, is due to submit its findings in May.