Two dogs and a turtle were left behind on the apron at Darwin International Airport after Qantas baggage handlers forgot to load them onto a flight to Sydney on Wednesday,
The NT News reports that the pets, which were left behind in their carriers, stayed in Darwin overnight before being sent down to Sydney on another flight the following day.
It comes after Qantas made the decision last year to outsource more than 2,000 ground staff roles, including 65 in the Northern Territory, in a move that has been widely criticised by industry unions.
Transport Workers Union (TWU) SA/NT branch secretary Ian Smith said that the incident was “absolutely” a result of Qantas’ decision to outsource its ground operations.
“We’ve seen the safety incidents, now we’re hearing about incidents where people’s luggage, pets and livestock aren’t arriving,” he said.
“This is what happens when we engage in a race to the bottom and let greed take over safety. It’s a recipe for disaster, and we’re starting to see those disasters starting to happen.”
Smith conceded that incidents and oversight when it comes to baggage handling is bound to happen “from time to time”, however the incident, which follows a string of similarly concerning cases, appears to mark a dangerous pattern.
A Qantas spokeswoman told The NT News that incidents such as this one do occur from time to time, even before the airline began to outsource its labour.
“We know that no one likes missing a flight – turtles and dogs included – but unfortunately these things happen occasionally, including when ground handling was done in-house,” she said.
“Only since the outsourcing is the TWU commenting publicly on these incidents and the travelling public deserves to be cynical about that.”
She added that the dogs and turtle were “cared for” overnight, and confirmed they were flown to Sydney the following day.
Qantas is looking into how the animals came to be left off the flight.
The news follows a number of similarly concerning incidents in the past few weeks, which the TWU suggested is a consequence of Qantas’ decision to outsource workers.
In the last two weeks alone, two Qantas Boeing 737 planes have suffered damage after being crashed into by baggage vehicles.
The first occurred at Perth Airport on 21 May, when a baggage vehicle’s brakes are said to have failed, and crashed into the underside of the aircraft. The driver of the vehicle was temporarily trapped.
The TWU said at the time that the driver was lucky not to have been killed or seriously injured in the incident, caused by the faulty vehicle.
Just one week later, on 29 May, a very similar incident occurred in Darwin, in which a belt loader vehicle ended up lodged under the belly of the 737 aircraft.
The TWU again argued that the incident was a direct result of Qantas’ decision to outsource work, which the union said has resulted in lower wages and inefficient staff to complete standard cleaning, maintenance and safety compliance work.
At the time of these two incidents, Qantas defended its position, arguing the TWU “knows full well that external ground handlers are no less safe and in some cases their safety performance is better than work done in-house”.
A Qantas spokesperson told the media at the time that prior to the outsourcing decision, Qantas saw 0.8 aircraft damages per every 1,000 flights, and that this figure has dropped to 0.4 since it implemented its outsourced operations.
Since December 2020, the TWU has been fighting against Qantas’ decision to outsource over 2,000 ground staff roles in Federal Court.
The union is attempting to force the airline to rehire the affected staff, arguing that the decision to remove them contravened the Fair Work Act because employees at the new companies will now no longer be entitled to terms secured through enterprise agreements.