Qantas has announced that around 2500 frontline workers at both Qantas and Jetstar will be stood down for two months as lockdowns severely impact the aviation industry.
Domestic pilots, cabin crew and airport workers will be stood down in two weeks.
It comes just a day after the federal government unveiled a new $100 million support package for the industry to allow workers to be retained.
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Domestic airlines could claim a $750-a-week payment for half their workforce if they have suffered a 30 per cent drop in business.
The government’s half-price airline ticket scheme is also being extended.
The majority of affected staff are in New South Wales but there is staff in other states that will also be impacted.
Qantas says staff will be paid until mid-August but will then have to rely on federal government disaster payments.
The airline insists the measure is temporary and no job losses are expected.
The move comes after a dramatic drop in flights on the back of lockdown in several states across the country, including the prolonged lockdown in parts of New South Wales.
Qantas and Jetstar had been operating at almost 100 per cent capacity in May before lockdowns began again, dropping to less than 40 per cent in July.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the decision to stand down staff was a difficult one.
“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,” Mr Joyce 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 hopes capacity will lift back to around 50 or 60 per cent when states reopen to Victoria and South Australia after their lockdowns were lifted.
But Mr Joyce concedes it’s likely to be a long wait for Sydney to get back to normal.
“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.
At the height of the pandemic last year, Qantas stood down more than 20,000 workers while aircraft were left parked at airports around the country.