Qantas has settled one of multiple active age discrimination cases taken out against it after two months of mediation, for an undisclosed amount.
The Australian revealed Captain Andrew Hewitt was among the 55 Qantas pilots offered an early retirement package last year at the age of 63, in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the airline.
A long-haul captain and career Boeing 747 pilot, Captain Hewitt had risen to number four on the airline’s seniority list for its long-haul operations when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, having been with Qantas for 40 years.
Qantas argued that its long-haul operations will likely not return to full capacity until Captain Hewitt is over the age of 65, at which point he would no longer be allowed to operate overseas commercial flights, under international civil aviation rules.
Captain Hewitt then became one of just four of the 55 people offered early retirement to refuse the deal, and ultimately fought Qantas in the Federal Court of New South Wales, alleging age discrimination.
Hewitt argued that an early retirement package left him far worse off than the redundancy packages offered to younger pilots, with his package offering four months pay as opposed to 12 months.
The matter has now been settled between the two parties for an undisclosed amount, after being filed with the Federal Court in February.
Captain Paul Summers, another of the four pilots that refused their offer for early retirement, has also taken legal action against Qantas, citing age discrimination.
Captain Summers has recently changed his legal representation to Hunter Flood Lawyers, the same firm that represented Captain Hewitt in this case.
In April, Captain Summers, who has worked for Qantas for 32 years, successfully won an injunction to stop the airline from terminating his employment just because he has turned 65.
The Federal Court said while Captain Paul Summers doesn’t have a strong argument, he must remain stood down until the Human Rights Commission can consider the case.
Captain Summers’ case is complicated, due to him being an Airbus A330 captain, who has historically flown both short and long-haul international routes for Qantas.
However, Captain Summers insisted he wasn’t affected by the “Rule of 65” because the A330 he captained could also fly between Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and Cairns.
Unlike in other countries, Australia has no upper age limit for airline pilots, providing they continue to meet the relevant medical standards and other requirements, meaning pilots over 65 can continue domestic operations, however, are not permitted to fly internationally.
Qantas has argued keeping him on would involve a major overhaul of its current rostering system.
Last month, Qantas announced a slew of new job cuts at the airline, as CEO Alan Joyce announced another round of voluntary redundancies on offer for international cabin crew.
The group announced it will cut 6,000 jobs altogether, or nearly 20 per cent of its workforce, and continue stand-downs for a further 15,000 employees.
The airline also said it would ground 100 aircraft for up to 12 months, including most of its international fleet.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said, “Adapting to this new reality means some very painful decisions. The job losses we’re announcing today are confronting. So is the fact thousands more of our people on stand-down will face a long interruption to their airline careers until this work returns.”