New images obtained by Australian Aviation show how the cabin crew of a Qantas A330 were made to sleep across seats in the economy cabin alongside passengers, with a makeshift blanket overhead to block out the light.
The photos, which have been verified, were taken on a long haul flight from Brisbane to LA and come as the airline faces thousands of customer complaints over hours long call wait times and queues at airports.
Australian Aviation understands that the issue arose, in part, due to a mechanical problem that meant the lights in the cabin could not be dimmed at that time, which meant crew had to place blankets over the seats in order to shut out the light.
COVID-related supply issues also meant the privacy curtain, that would normally separate the resting crew from paying passengers on the flight, is yet to be delivered.
In light of extending the range of its Airbus A330 fleet, Qantas has had to redesign the areas designated for its cabin crew to rest and take breaks while mid-flight, on all aircraft will utilise this extended range.
Generally, on the Airbus A330, the official crew rest areas are set aside for the four pilots onboard, while cabin crew are often assigned designated areas in the passenger cabin to take their breaks.
While under standard A330 operations, crew can sit in a traditional economy seat during their break, under the A330’s extended range operations, aviation fatigue management rules dictate that crew are required to have a lie-flat option during their rest time onboard.
As such, crew are now provided mattresses to place over a bank of four economy seats, allowing them to lie down. Under normal circumstances, a privacy curtain would be installed around these seats.
In the meantime, crew will continue to take their breaks across the centre bank of economy seats, beside passengers.
Australian Aviation understands that this fact has contributed to ongoing tension between international cabin crew unions and Qantas, in a feud that has seen Qantas turn to its New Zealand-based crew to cover Australian flights, largely the Brisbane – Los Angeles route which uses the A330’s extended range.
This has been the case since the route launched on 1 April, Australian Aviation understands.
Just yesterday, Qantas blamed cabin crew unions as the reason it’s had to rely on overseas-based crew over its Australian workforce in recent weeks, while responding to rumours suggesting it is sending more Australian roles offshore.
Rumours began swirling early on Tuesday that Qantas has been using its UK and New Zealand-based crew on international flights in lieu of its Australian workforce, leaving many local workers on extended reserve rosters, in order to save cash. It was also suggested that the airline may soon be outsourcing part of its crew training functions to facilities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
However, Qantas has denied that it is sending more jobs overseas, or that any of these decisions were made based on cost.
Qantas has confirmed that it has relied largely on its New Zealand cabin crew to man some international services over recent weeks, however, the airline claims this is due to ongoing contract negotiations with its international cabin crew, which has seen both sides in stalemate. The airline also confirmed that it will conduct some training in the UAE, though denies that any roles will be outsourced.
“A small amount of flying is being done by New Zealand-based crew because the union was not prepared to support Australian-based crew working on longer routes with some of our A330 aircraft, including the Brisbane to Los Angeles route, on terms that we were able to agree to,” said Qantas executive manager cabin crew Rachel Yangoyan.
“We wanted to have our Australian-based crew do this flying, but without the union’s support for this to happen, we’ve instead had to use New Zealand-based crew on some of these flights.”
It comes after Qantas in January applied to the Fair Work Commission to have its international cabin crew enterprise agreement ripped up entirely due to “unworkable” rostering conditions coded into the existing EBA, which limit the types of aircraft that crew can operate on.
In response, Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia, which is responsible for negotiating the new EBA, said that the union has never had a problem with changing this aspect of the contract, however has taken issue with other parts of Qantas’ proposal.
The union earlier overwhelmingly rejected Qantas’ proposed EBA, with over 97 per cent of respondents voting “no” to the deal.
The airline also addressed crew training outsourcing rumours and stated that while it will be “temporarily” using overseas facilities in the United Arab Emirates, all training will be conducted by its existing Australian workforce.
“With Qantas’ crew training facilities set to reach capacity as we ramp up our operations, we’ll be temporarily using some additional overseas facilities in the UAE to help increase our training capacity,” Yangoyan said.
“These overseas facilities have specialised equipment that is essential to cabin crew training and all facilities available to us in Australia are at capacity.
“All of our training will be conducted by Qantas Group trainers the same as it is in Australia, we’re simply renting the building and equipment that allows us to get the training done in the timeframe we need.”