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COMMENT: Qantas grounding recovery options

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 30, 2011
(Seth Jaworski)

Even though it is likely that Qantas will return to the air following the Fair Work Australia hearing on the afternoon of October 30, there are still a number of passengers who will need to be recovered, and no doubt some interesting options to get people moving again.

Virgin Australia has naturally been proactive on this front, already announcing that it is examining options with Delta, Etihad and Air New Zealand to add and redeploy capacity. This is likely to see its Pacific Blue aircraft redeployed to Australia domestic services while Air New Zealand accommodates the trans-Tasman services with its A320 fleet. In addition, it is reported that Etihad will start flying Sydney-Bangkok services and take over V Australia’s Sydney-Abu Dhabi services temporarily to allow V to add more trans-Pacific services.

Virgin has also noted that it is looking at options for Singapore Airlines to operate its aircraft domestically. In this case, expect SIA A330s or 777-200s to take on some of the longer domestic flying (eg SYD-PER, CNS-MEL) to free up 737 capacity which would be redeployed on the SYD-MEL-BNE triangle to add frequency.

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Virgin hasn’t yet said what it expects to do with Delta, but it is likely that Delta will add more services across the Pacific, and possibly up-gauge some to be operated by 747-400s. There are also unconfirmed reports that Delta is preparing to send a number of Boeing 737s and crew to Australia should it be required.

Should the grounding go on for a longer period, Virgin could also bring in capacity from Europe, particularly as it has just switched into the Northern Winter schedule where most airlines have spare capacity. That could see the likes of Air Berlin, Thomas Cook and possibly even Ryanair aircraft sent to Australia, but only if the situation does not resolve itself quickly.

Interestingly, Virgin hasn’t mentioned its domestic alliance partner Skywest in all of this yet. Although a large number of fleet hours are tied up in mining charter, the airline could play a role in flying its A320 on some intrastate WA services or from Perth to Adelaide and Darwin. There is no doubt that a Fokker 100 or two could be freed up by juggling the schedule too, and these could supplement the existing intrastate services.

Further down the chain, expect that Strategic Airlines may get a call up or two for some of its spare A320 and A330 capacity, possibly as charters. Similarly, I would expect that Alliance Airlines would be putting any spare aircraft into various charter services, while its sole Perth-Karratha RPT service is no doubt booking up fast.

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Tiger Airways is also expected to do pretty well out of the current mess at Qantas and has the aircraft available to ramp up its schedule pretty quickly. However, the restrictions placed on it by CASA mean that it is unlikely to be able to add more services.

Would the RAAF be involved as it was during the 1989 pilots dispute? At this stage I think this would be a last resort, even with the RAAF recently taking delivery of its first KC-30A MRTTs. If anything, the BBJs and CL-604s of 34 SQN will be kept busy bringing politicians and public servants back to Canberra following CHOGM in Perth.

The other operators who will be kept busy will be the business jet operators such as Hawker Pacific, Execujet and AvWest. Even if the Qantas aircraft get back into the air before the Monday lockout, there will be a number of important individuals who would have already booked these aircraft just to be sure that nothing affects their  plans.

The scale of all these contingencies will only be known once the FWA hearing is finished, at which point we should know if the grounding and lockout will go ahead or if Qantas and the unions will head back to the negotiating table and all bets are off until the end of that negotiating period. But for those with an interest in airline operations, this makes for a very interesting time.

Ellis Taylor

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What aircraft do you think we will see in Australian skies over the next few days? Leave your comments below.

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4 Comments

  • George

    says:

    The unions have no consideration for the commercial realities of the world we live in, just their own agenda. I would be surprised if Qantas wasn’t happy for that part of their business to go broke. That way they could employ everyone under the Jetstar system. It would increase their profitability!
    Most people aren’t aware that Qantas hasn’t made money in years. Here’s an excerpt about their profit breakdown. “Qantas mainline achieved revenues of $11.7 billion dollars, but in the financial year of 2008/09 made a loss of $77 million. Jetstar on the other hand with a fraction of the revenue, sitting at $1.9 billion, made a profit before tax of $126 million”. So, there it is, even shutting down Qantas would increase their profitability, by reducing their losses. You especially can’t pay people more, when your not making money out of them. BTW, I’ve got Qantas flights on Wed, but I’m still supportive of what they’re doing.

  • Grant McHerron (Falcon124)

    says:

    The unions have played completely into management’s hands on this one. Now Joyce & co can blame everything on militant unions, conveniently sweeping aside their mismanagement of routes & fleet choices, confrontational & antagonistic people management styles & claims that “International is losing money” when mainline resources are provided free of charge to Jetstar. Of course, if Qantas goes, Jetstar no longer gets a “free ride” with legal fees, freight contracts and so on. Perhaps then we will see the true costs of running Jetstar?

  • Grame

    says:

    Well said Grant McHerron,

    I worked in QF not long ago and see it everyday. Since Jetstar exist, QF cost base keep going high coz providing resources to jetstar. I see how they put all the cost to QF and all the profit to Jetstar. I see day to day when Jetstar passengers get stuck or delayed, they do not have resource to deploy a spare aircraft or an engineer, no parts on their port. They just use QF flight to transport passengers.They even put their passengers in the hotels with QF account while a delay occured, in AUS or overseas. Not a news when idiots showing off how they booked a Jetstar flight and eventually got sitted on a QF business class seat. Only became news when other full fare passenger throw him a punch to shut him up in flight.

    QANTAS Catering became Q Catering now because they are too costly. Does Jetstar ever establish their own catering? No, they just grab what’s extra from QF and put on their international flight. That’s why they do not have a manual, only leftovers.

    Unions go on strike with a week forecast. So you can plan your travel. How long did A.J. give you? Not to mention with 17 world leaders about to get on their flight in hours. Not to mention the big weekend for Melbourne Cup. He just hijack the government and whole traveling public to get his way.

    Ask A.J. himself, does he want to get paid an Asian base salary to do his job in QANTAS? I guess not.

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