Qantas’ regional brand is to close its Boeing 717 bases in Queensland and Western Australia and instead centralise its operations in Melbourne.
QantasLink’s move will cost more than 160 local jobs but create 100 new positions in the Victorian capital and 60 in Cairns. The business said it will give affected pilots and cabin crew the opportunity to relocate.
“QantasLink has completed a review of its network and will be relocating some aircraft around the country to better match capacity with expected demand as domestic and regional markets recover from COVID and travel restrictions,” a spokesman said.
“The changes are about having the right sized aircraft operating on the right route with the flexibility to ramp up and down as we need to.”
This comes just months after Qantas acquired National Jet Systems, and took 20 Boeing 717 aircraft back in-house, to be operated by its regional subsidiary.
Cobham Aviation Services had previously operated the fleet for 15 years on behalf of QantasLink.
Following the base closures, eight Boeing 717 aircraft will be relocated from Perth to Brisbane, while six will operate out of Melbourne – where there were previously no 717s servicing routes.
Melbourne operations will also include up to three Q300 turboprops, while three larger Q400 turboprops will be moved from Melbourne to Sydney and Brisbane.
“While border changes and lockdowns mean we can’t operate between most states right now, these restrictions will eventually lift,” Qantas said. “When they do, we need to be ready to respond quickly to customer demand in the face of leaner competitors.”
Australian Aviation previously reported that just 15 per cent of stood-down Qantas pilots have managed to secure work elsewhere since the start of the pandemic.
Speaking to the Australian Aviation podcast, Mark Sedgwick, the head of Qantas’ pilots association, said, “The industry is hurting really badly. To be an airline pilot in Australia now means to be stood down because there’s no useful work for you.”
Qantas announced in late June it was to continue stand-downs for 15,000 staff and make 6,000 more redundant, including 220 pilots. Just last week, the airline added it could potentially axe a further 2,500 roles, mostly from outsourcing ground handling.