The Australian government has been accused by a leading travel agency of not acting fast enough to prevent the grounding of the entire Qantas fleet over the weekend.
Travel management company FCm Travel Solutions’ Australia-based parent company Flight Centre believes the industrial action should have been ended sooner to protect the country’s tourism industry.
The TMC’s UK clients affected by the action were switched to alternative airlines or were forced to postpone their trips. Travellers are now revisiting their business travel plans although but their confidence in booking with Qantas has been “shaken”.
The airline locked out staff and grounded all flights in a surprise move on Saturday in an effort to end months of strike action by workers. At least 70,000 passengers were affected with around 450 flights cancelled.
The country’s Fair Work Australia industrial regulator stepped in to end the dispute, ordering both sides back to work on Monday after emergency talks. Domestic flights are now running as planned and international schedules are operating as scheduled.
FCm UK general manager Steve Norris said: “Here in the UK we had around 900 calls to our emergency assist service from corporate clients who were travelling or due to travel over the weekend with Qantas when planes were grounded.
“We sent out travel alerts immediately to clients and issued an emergency report to all our corporate teams advising which passengers were already in transit. This enabled our consultants to pro-actively contact clients and make alternative arrangements.
“We also boosted our 24/7 emergency assist service with volunteers from the FCm network and sent out further alerts ensuring all staff were aware of Qantas’ re-protection policy so that they could pass this information onto their clients.”
He added: “However our parent company is Australia’s largest travel agency group and the impact on their passengers was phenomenal.
“Flight Centre’s emergency assist service handled calls from over 5,000 people and staff worked round the clock to help leisure and corporate travellers. Flight Centre Limited’s managing director Graham Turner called for government intervention early last week as the dispute was already causing so much damage to Australia’s tourism industry.
“Resolving the dispute had been in the country’s interests for some time. Given tourism’s importance to the Australia economy Graham felt that the government should have acted sooner.”