The Australian Federation of Air Pilots has urged the government to extend its JobKeeper scheme for the aviation industry when it expires on 27 September.
President Louise Pole said, “The likelihood that international operations will resume in any meaningful way before September is remote and our highly-skilled airline pilot members are currently in a severe financial situation.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised the scheme will be reviewed at the end of June, and also hinted it could be extended to more vulnerable industries.
“The review will provide an opportunity to see how the program is going and the experience on the ground and to make any amendments that are necessary,” he said. “When you move a program as quickly as this, then you anticipate that there will be some anomalies and issues that need to be addressed along the way.”
Interstate domestic flying is set to return on a commercial level in July – subject to borders opening – but the Australian government has hinted international flights are unlikely to make a comeback until the end of the year.
Currently, Australians are effectively banned from leaving the country for all but essential reasons, and only citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter – subject to undertaking 14 days in hotel quarantine.
“Extending JobKeeper for the aviation industry would provide pilots some income until such time as flying can return and enable operators to keep pilots in readiness to resume flying to meet the travel demand,” said Pole. “It also meets the requirements set by the federal government in that it would be industry-wide assistance and not specific to any one airline or operator.”
The JobKeeper package was introduced to provide coronavirus-effected business with $1,500 per employee, per fortnight.
The companies are then legally obliged to pass that payment onto workers in a bid to keep the economy active during the pandemic.
More generally, the scheme has proved problematic for much of the aviation industry.
Many airport workers are locked out of the financial package because their firms are council-owned; while staff at dnata were similarly told they were no longer eligible because their company is owned by a foreign government.
Later, it emerged a miscalculation meant the package came around $60 billion under budget. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Today program he accepted blame for the apparent reporting error, which meant the aid package only cost $70 billion and covered 3.5 million Australians, rather than $130 billion and 6.5 million as forecast.
Last week, the chairman of Mildura Airport became Australia’s first airport boss to call for the scheme to be extended after it emerged the initiative was under budget.
Peter O’Donnell told Australian Aviation, “We’ll get through this, but my concern is that the regional networks will be decimated because airports will be fundamentally without funds or bankrupted.”