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Court row continues over hiring of Qantas A380 second officers

written by Jake Nelson | July 20, 2023

A Qantas A380, VH-OQH, at Sydney Airport. (Image: Jake Nelson)

A Federal Court battle is continuing between Qantas and the Australian International Pilots Association (AIPA) over hiring practices on the Flying Kangaroo’s Airbus A380s.

The AIPA is arguing that Qantas second officers who are passed over for the A380 in favour of pilots from outside the company should be compensated, while Qantas says the pilots’ union has “unreasonably” withheld its agreement to sourcing external A380 pilots.

Under the Qantas long-haul pilots’ enterprise agreement, any new Qantas second officer would normally start on the Boeing 787 or Airbus A330, with existing second officers being promoted to A380 second officer positions when they become available based on seniority.

However, last year, Qantas requested 20 training spots on the A380 for new-hire Australian second officers, citing constraints in its training and limited capacity to release 787 and A330 pilots from their current positions owing to a faster-than-expected travel recovery.

The AIPA knocked back the request unless those pilots passed over for the new hires were compensated, and Qantas subsequently took the union to court, claiming its refusal was “unreasonable” under the circumstances.


“This dispute is about the pilot seniority and allocation system which has been accepted at Qantas for more than half a century to provide dedicated and long-serving pilots with a clear career pathway,” said AIPA president Tony Lucas.

“Qantas is seeking to directly allocate new second officers to the A380 even though there are sufficient bids from suitably qualified pilots currently employed by Qantas.

“If these pilots are passed over, they should be fairly compensated in order to maintain the integrity of the system of seniority and allocation that is carefully laid down by the Enterprise Agreement.”

Qantas has said promoting the 20 second officers needed for the A380s would have required taking existing pilots off the 787 and A330 fleets at a time when they are needed for strong international demand, and would require twice as much training as bringing in external hires.

In a previous statement, a Qantas spokesperson said, “We have a record amount of training underway as we bring more pilots back after COVID, hire hundreds of new pilots and promote existing pilots to more senior positions. This includes training for hundreds of Qantas pilots who are being promoted this year and a further 1500 pilots who will be promoted over the next three years.

“We are at near capacity in our training facilities, so we are looking at how we can best allocate the limited training positions and ensure we can do as much flying as possible. Given the training constraints we want to train 20 new recruits on the A380 as Second Officers, which means we don’t need to retrain a further 20 pilots on a new aircraft type.”

Qantas says it currently has seven operational A380s, with another three yet to return to service.

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Comments (2)

  • How about we bring the new chums with A330 ratings into the QF A330 system allowing promotion from within existing A330 ranks to the A380, that way conversion training would be a lot easier and quicker and at the same time allows QF to look after it’s own first off as it should. Finally, with respect, QF has had heaps of time to address this problem but unfortunately it would appear that they did not do so.

  • allister polkinghorne


    Nothing like inflexible union work rules to jack up the costs… One salary for each position in the aircraft, despite the aircraft type fixes this problem.

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