Long delays at airports are partly being blamed on “rusty” passengers but some believe there’s another factor Qantas is not keen to acknowledge.
Aussies have objected to claims “rusty” passengers are to blame for the lengthy delays at airports – pointing to another factor that Qantas doesn’t want to talk about – the sacking of thousands of its employees.
There have been huge delays at Sydney Airport for days, with photos showing long lines stretching out of the domestic terminals onto the road from 5am over the weekend. More pain is expected this weekend as Aussies enjoy the Easter long weekend.
Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce appeared on ABC News Breakfast this morning to apologize to passengers and said the delays were caused by a number of factors, including high absenteeism levels among security staff, which is managed by the airports not airlines.
Up to 20-50 per cent of security staff had not shown up for work, including because they are close contacts of a Covid-positive case in certain states, Mr Joyce said. However, NSW is one state that does not require close contacts to isolate.
“We’re also seeing that passengers are rusty in traveling as well,” Mr Joyce said, adding that it was “happening to all of us”.
“I left my passport in my hotel safe. One of my colleagues left her passport on a BA flight, ”he said.
“Another colleague last week thought that the gate number was her seat number and got them confused.”
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Mr Joyce said more people were having to be rescreened at Sydney Airport. Prior to the pandemic, he said this was only necessary for 10 per cent of travelers but has climbed up to 30 per cent, which takes an extra 45 seconds.
“So we’re trying to encourage passengers now to think if they have aerosols in their bags, until they have laptops, keys on them, to get ready before they get to the top of the security desk,” he said.
It comes after Mr Joyce watered down earlier suggestions the “match fitness” of customers were to blame for the lengthy delays at Sydney Airport.
“Just to be clear, I’m not‘ blaming ’passengers. Of course it’s not their fault, ”Mr Joyce said on Friday.
However, some Aussies were not buying the explanation, pointing out that Qantas sacked many employees in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, despite being the biggest beneficiary of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program, securing around $ 1.6 billion in support.
Qantas group executive for corporate affairs Andrew McGinnis defended its decision to outsource 2000 ground staff in a bid to lower costs at a parliamentary inquiry last year, telling Senators, “Our view of the ground handling roles were, unfortunately, because of the changes we need to make in our overall business, those jobs were not sustainable beyond the pandemic”.
But the Transport Workers Union (TWU) brought a case against Qantas about the outsourcing, which was ultimately supported by the Federal Court.
Justice Michael Lee was reportedly not convinced the decision to outsource the jobs was not linked in part to the fact the majority of employees were union members and had various workplace rights under enterprise agreements.
Qantas was expected to pay the workers compensation but they were not able to get their jobs back.
More recently Qantas has blindsided its flight attendants by seeking to tear up their current work agreement, forcing 2500 attendees on to the ‘modern award’, which would see them take a hit to their pay and conditions until a new deal was negotiated.
Qantas has insisted it has no other option after cabin crew voted against a new four-year deal in December. The actions have been criticized by unions and some are also linking them to the chaos now unfolding at airports.
“Qantas and Sydney Airports were incessant during the pandemic with demands that travel restrictions be lifted,” Crikey policy editor Bernard Keane tweeted.
“When they finally were, both had decided they’d rather enjoy extra profits by not employing the extra staff needed. Our time queuing is extra money for them. ”
One man who appeared to have traveled on Thursday tweeted: “Things were a little bit slower than normal at SYD on Thursday but no signs of rust. Everyone did the usual things to check in and get through security. Security folk efficient.
“There was definitely a visible lack of staff though so maybe it’s the airlines that are rusty?”
While another woman tweeted “Qantas CEO got millions in JobKeeper and government grants, sacked everyone, and lobbied against keeping masks and restrictions.
“Now he has an inexperienced workforce, many of whom are now sick with Covid, and wonders why they are struggling.”