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
Qantas Grounds Entire Fleet in Labor Dispute
Qantas passenger jets at their terminal at Sydney Airport in a file photo.   (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

(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.

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"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. (Read more Qantas stories.)

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