BY JAMES WILKINSON
While Qantas is back in the skies and now operating normally, hotels are facing a significant loss in the wake of the two-day fleet grounding.
As the return of Australia’s national carrier to the air gets travellers back on track, hotels have been left in the jetstream – counting the cost of the dispute, which is estimated to be around AUD$10 million in lost revenue and existing rostering commitments, according to industry body the Accommodation Association of Australia.
Qantas’s CEO Alan Joyce grounded both the domestic and international fleets at 5pm on Saturday afternoon following months of failed negotiations with three of the carrier’s 12 unions – the Australian Licenced Engineers Union, the Transport Workers Union, and the Australian and International Pilots Union – a move which subsequently saw an intervention by the Australian Government and an eventual emergency Fair Work Australia hearing.
In the early hours of Monday morning and more than 24 hours after the hearing first began, Fair Work Australia granted the Australian Government’s application to terminate all industrial action by the three unions.
Just hours later, Joyce announced the fleet would soon be airborne once more, ending hours of delays for frustrated passengers across the globe.
“This is a good outcome,” Joyce said. “Our focus is bringing our schedule back to normal as soon as possible.
“The industrial process has now passed into the hands of the independent umpire. All parties will be treated equally and we will respect the decisions that are made.
“We have new and existing agreements with 12 unions. We now anticipate the conclusion of agreements with the remaining three.
“We sincerely regret the impact on customers of industrial action over recent months, and the effect on employees.
“We look forward to a rapid recovery and to a period of stability enabling us to focus on our customers and our strategy for the airline,” he said.
On Saturday night, the grounding affected 108 aircraft at 22 airports across the world and stranded thousands of passengers. Monday afternoon’s first flight since the stoppage – QF533 from Brisbane to Sydney – was applauded by both passengers and industry alike, but many are unimpressed with what was left in the dispute’s wake.
“The accommodation industry is breathing a collective sigh of relief with the news that Qantas has returned to the skies,” said Accommodation Association of Australia CEO Richard Munro.
“The change in arrangements for guests staying in hotels, serviced apartments and motels will take a few days to clear and in the interim, operators and staff are continuing to assist stranded passengers,” he said.
Munro said the cost to the hotel industry would run into in the tens of millions of dollars.
“Early estimates are the cost of the dispute to our industry is in the vicinity of $10 million, which has come about from cancelled rooms, cancelled conferences and group businesses, and pre-existing staff rostering commitments – whereby staff still had to be paid despite having shifts cancelled,” he said.
“It goes without saying that what’s happened highlights the high dependence that tourism accommodation businesses have on aviation access and Qantas as the largest Australian-based carrier.
“The accommodation industry hopes such a scenario never happens again. An environment where there are ongoing industrial issues is not conducive for businesses to maximise productivity.”