Qantas is standing down around 2,500 frontline staff for two months in response to ongoing Covid lockdowns across Australia.
The temporary measure has been introduced to deal with a significant drop in flying caused by Covid restrictions in Sydney in particular and the knock-on border closures in all other states and territories.
The airline stressed that no job losses are expected.
However, the decision will directly impact domestic pilots, cabin crew and airport workers, mostly in New South Wales but also in other Australian states given the nature of airline networks.
Employees will be given two weeks’ notice before the stand down takes effect, with pay continuing until mid-August.
Income support in the form of government disaster payments “will be key to helping eligible employees get through this challenging period,” the Qantas Group said.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said the difficult decision to trigger stand downs reflected the reality confronting many businesses operating in New South Wales.
“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we’re now faced with an extended period of reduced flying and that means no work for a number of our people,” he said. “We’ve absorbed a significant amount of cost since these recent lockdowns started and continued paying our people their full rosters despite thousands of cancelled flights.
“Qantas and Jetstar have gone from operating almost 100% of their usual domestic flying in May to less than 40% in July because of lockdowns in three states.
“Hopefully, once other states open back up to South Australia and Victoria in the next week or so, and the current outbreak in Brisbane is brought under control, our domestic flying will come back to around 50 to 60 per cent of normal levels.
“Based on current case numbers, it’s reasonable to assume that Sydney’s borders will be closed for at least another two months. We know it will take a few weeks once the outbreak is under control before other states open to New South Wales and normal travel can resume.
“Fortunately, we know that once borders do reopen, travel is at the top of people’s list and flying tends to come back quickly, so we can get our employees back to work.
“This is extremely challenging for the 2,500 of our people directly impacted, but it’s also very different from this time last year when we had more than 20,000 employees stood down and most of our aircraft in hibernation for months on end.
“The vaccine rollout means the end is in sight and the concept of lockdowns will be a thing of the past. Australia just needs more people rolling up their sleeves as more vaccine arrives.”
He added: “The challenge around opening international borders remains. There are still several thousand Qantas and Jetstar crew who normally fly internationally and who have been on long periods of stand down since the pandemic began. Higher vaccination rates are also key to being able to fly overseas again, and finally getting all our people back to work.”