Qantas workers could stack shelves as 20,000 stood down
The flying kangaroo has been grounded with Qantas and Jetstar now axing all international flights and standing down two thirds of its workforce.
More than 160 aircraft will be grounded including all of its big A380s and 747s with 60 per cent of domestic flights already cut.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said: "With the huge drop in revenue we're facing, we have to make difficult decisions to guarantee the future of the national carrier."
He said two-thirds of the 30,000 strong workforce was being stood down with many taking long term leave.
"This is a terrible day," he said. "I never thought as the national CEO that I would have to stand down two thirds of our people."
Mr Joyce said "this is the biggest crisis aviation has ever gone through" and that tough decisions were being taken to ensure the national carrier was ready to ramp up when the crisis passes.
"The reality is we'll have 150 aircraft on the ground and sadly there's no work for most of our people," Mr Joyce said.
Pilots and crew of all the wide bodied aircraft - the A380s, 747s and 787s - were among those being stood down with their aircraft among those being parked and "put to sleep" at airport gates around the nation.
"Rather than lose these highly skilled employees who we'll need when this crisis passes, we are instead standing down two-thirds of our 30,000 employees until at least the end of May," Mr Joyce said.
"Most of our people will be using various types of paid leave during this time, and we'll have a number of support options in place."
Those options include taking a month's leave in advance at half pay. But some workers will end up with no pay and the airline is helping them find temporary work.
Mr Joyce said Woolworths boss Brad Banducci had contacted him to see if Qantas hosties could work in customer service and baggage handlers could stock shelves until the airline was back in the air.
Qantas has an annual wages bill of more than $4 billion. Senior executives and the board have now joined Mr Joyce in taking no pay until the end of the financial year. Bonuses have also been axed.
The airline's freight planes will continue to fly internationally and Qantas is keeping the door open to flying non-scheduled international passenger flights if they are needed.
"There are a lot of expat Australians around the globe that are allowed back into the country," Mr Joyce said. It was possible the government might need some services to London or Los Angeles to get people home.
The airline has designed the cut in domestic flights to reduce frequency but leave no area of the country cut off.
Among the staff still working is a team dedicated to planning how to restart the airline once the crisis passes. Mr Joyce said the airline intended to get every one of its planes back in the air.
"This is survival of the fittest," he said. "Airlines in this region will go under, Qantas will not be one of them."
VIRGIN SUSPENDS FLIGHTS AS AIRLINES GET $715M LIFELINE
Yesterday, Virgin Australia's boss welcomed the Federal Government's multimillion-dollar lifeline to the airline industry, as the company announced it would suspend all international flights from March 30 for at least two months and cut its domestic routes in half.
Paul Scurrah, the airline's chief executive and managing director, told reporters this afternoon he was "buoyed by the Government's decision".
"It is an excellent decision and shows that the Government is willing to step in and support the aviation sector. I welcome the decision by our Government. I welcome the Deputy Prime Minister's intervention in helping that happen. Whether it is enough or not, it is too early to tell," he said.
Mr Scurrah said Virgin Australia raised their "already good hygiene standards to an unprecedented level" to make sure domestic travellers felt safe.
He said Virgin Australia's 10,500 employees will see "some impact".
"Whether that impact is in temporary, part-time work instead of full-time work, whether that impact is in people taking leave without pay, whether that is people doing job-sharing, that is all being worked through," he said.
He added "redundancies in these circumstances will be an inevitability."
The airline announced this morning it would prioritise bringing Australians home before it temporarily grounds the equivalent of 53 aircraft from its fleet.
"The Virgin Australia Group has today announced a temporary suspension of international services and further cuts to domestic capacity in response to expanded government travel restrictions and increased impacts from COVID-19 on travel demand," a statement from the airline said.
Mr Scurrah said the world had entered an "unprecedented time" in the aviation industry.
"(This) has required us to take significant action to responsibly manage our business while balancing traveller demands and supporting the wellbeing of Australians," he said in a statement this morning.
"We have responded by making tough decisions which include reducing our domestic capacity and phasing in the temporary suspension of international flying for a period of two and a half months."
The suspension and flight reductions will continue until at least June 14.
Virgin's Melbourne to Los Angeles services will be suspended from March 20 while the inaugural Brisbane to Tokyo, and Melbourne to Denpasar services will be postponed from March 29.
Virgin said it will operate a reduced international schedule between now and March 29 to enable Australians to return home and visitors to return to their point of origin.
Australia's ailing airlines will be handed a $715 million federal government lifeline to help the sector through the coronavirus pandemic.
A range of government charges will be refunded and waived to help airlines under immense pressure as domestic and global travel plummets.
The government will forgo fuel excise, air service charges and regional security fees.
The move is expected to create an upfront benefit of $159 million, with the government refunding charges paid since February 1.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the package was designed to put Australia in the best position to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
"Our airlines run on tight budgets at the best of times and these past few weeks have been particularly tough," he said today.
"I've been speaking with Australian airline executives every day and will continue to work with them to make sure they receive the support they need."
Regional carrier Rex has urged government action, warning it could go under unless given help during the tumultuous period.
Shares in Regional Express entered a trading halt on Tuesday pending an announcement to the market.
Singapore-based Jetstar Asia, which is owned by Qantas, has suspended all flights for three weeks from March 23 to April 15.