In a widely anticipated move, Qantas is reviewing the future of its heavy maintenance base in Avalon, Victoria. The continued retirement of 747s, which had been overhauled at Avalon, has significantly reduced workload at Avalon and spurred consideration of a significant downsizing or closure of the facility.
Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi said Avalon “was becoming sub-scale and inefficient because Qantas was gradually retiring its fleet of 747s and replacing them with new generation aircraft”.
“Over the next few years we will have periods of up to three months at a time when there will be no maintenance work in the hangars at Avalon. In fact, there will be no scheduled maintenance for the equivalent of five months each year for the next four years, starting in March 2014,” Strambi said.
In 2004, Qantas had 36 747s in its fleet, while today there are 15 and in three years 10. The heavy maintenance base at Avalon currently supports 59 Qantas employees and approximately 253 contractors.
Unsurprisingly, the announcement, however expected, will unsettle engineering unions, which have mounted a vocal campaign against Qantas’s gradual out-sourcing of maintenance and engineering.
“We will invite our employees, unions and other parties to sit down and discuss the challenges and look at potential options for our Avalon base. We expect to conclude these discussions by the end of October and make a decision sometime after that.”
In May last year Qantas announced a consolidation of its Australian based heavy maintenance into Brisbane and Avalon and flagged its intention to ultimately reduce to one Australian heavy maintenance facility.
Strambi said irrespective of the outcome of the review, Qantas would continue to do the vast majority of its maintenance in Australia, employing thousands of people.
“Qantas is the only major airline which does heavy maintenance at its own facilitates in Australia, and this will continue to be the case into the future,” he said.
In addition to its Brisbane and Avalon heavy maintenance base, Qantas conducts line maintenance at 19 ports around Australia. Qantas Engineering employs approximately 4,500 people including over 500 in Melbourne.
Qantas pointed to the recent announcement of the establishment of a 787 maintenance and training base at Melbourne Airport as testament to it not abandoning in-house engineering functions. The airline also said it had invested $30 million this year to upgrade its maintenance facilities in Brisbane which are due to be completed by the end of 2013.