Qantas Grounds Entire Fleet in Labor Dispute

Surprise move in Australia strands passengers around the world

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 29, 2011 6:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Be glad you're not booked on a Qantas flight. The Australian airline abruptly grounded its entire fleet today because of a nasty labor dispute, reports the BBC. The move came so suddenly that some planes turned around while taxiing on the runway, notes AP. Qantas is paying for people to rebook on other airlines, but the decision is still causing a huge headache for international travelers—it affects 108 planes in 22 countries—and, potentially, for Australia's economy.

"We're all set for the flight and settled in and the next thing—I'm stunned. We're getting back off the plane," says a British tourist now stranded in Sydney. Qantas pilots, baggage handlers, and engineers have been staging strikes to protest the airline's summer decision to cut about 1,000 jobs as part of a restructuring, explains the BBC. "We are locking out until the unions withdraw their extreme claim and reach agreement with us," said Qantas chief Alan Joyce. A rep for a pilots' union complains that Joyce has "gone mad," and the government is ticked that the airline gave it only three hours' notice.

Qantas passenger jets at their terminal at Sydney Airport in a file photo.
Qantas passenger jets at their terminal at Sydney Airport in a file photo.   (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)
A Qantas passenger in Perth, Australia, talks on his phone after hearing his flight was canceled because of the labor fight.
A Qantas passenger in Perth, Australia, talks on his phone after hearing his flight was canceled because of the labor fight.   (Getty Images)
Passengers are seen at the Qantas terminal in Melbourne, Australia.
Passengers are seen at the Qantas terminal in Melbourne, Australia.   (Getty Images)
Qantas staff attemptsi to help passengers in Melbourne.
Qantas staff attemptsi to help passengers in Melbourne.   (Getty Images)
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