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Qantas grounds all international flights

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
Melbourne, Australia - November 19, 2012: Qantas Airways Airbus A380 registered VH-OQF takes off as QF93 to Los Angeles (LAX) from Melbourne International Airport at Tullamarine, Victoria.
Qantas has stood down thousands of staff in one the flying kangaroo's darkest days. Image: Getty

Qantas (QAN.AX) will ground all international flights and stand down the majority of its 30,000 employees until the end of May at the earliest as the carrier battles Covid-19’s devastating effects.

Two-thirds of the company’s employees will be temporarily stood down and take paid or unpaid leave, with the company saying the move is to try to preserve as many jobs as possible.

The airline is cutting all international flights from late March, after it recently announced 90 per cent of international flights would be suspended.

Jetstar Asia will also suspend all flights from 23 March to at least 15 April, while Jetstar Japan has suspended international flights and Jetstar Pacific has suspended international flights.

Qantas will reduce domestic flights by 60 per cent.

All up, 150 planes will be temporarily grounded.

20,000 stood down: Here’s what they’re entitled to

Qantas staff (C) walk through the terminal of Sydney domestic airport on 27 February, 2014. Struggling Australian carrier Qantas February 27 said it will axe 5,000 jobs, defer aircraft deliveries and freeze growth at Asian offshoot Jetstar in a major shake-up after deep first-half losses, warning of more pain to come.   AFP PHOTO/William WEST        (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
Thousands of Qantas staff will be temporarily stood down. Image: Getty

Around 20,000 stood-down employees will be able to access annual leave, leave at half-pay, and will also be able to draw down on long service leave early.

Staff with low leave balances will have access to up to four weeks of annual leave before earning it. However, Qantas said unpaid leave is also inevitable for some employees.

“The reality is we’ll have 150 aircraft on the ground and sadly there’s no work for most of our people. 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,” CEO Alan 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. We’re also talking to our partners like Woolworths about temporary job opportunities for our people.”

Senior management won’t be paid

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce speaks at National Press Club on September 18, 2019 in Canberra, Australia. The CEOs of Australia's major domestic airlines are speaking on Australia's airport monopoly. The airlines have collectively called on the Government to implement reforms proposed by the ACCC that would bring airports into line with other essential infrastructure in Australia. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Image: Getty

Senior group management executives and the board will not receive a salary until at least the end of the financial year, after CEO Alan Joyce and the Qantas chairman announced they would not take a salary.

Management bonuses have also been canned.

International traffic at a near-standstill

As Covid-19 spreads throughout the globe, countries are closing borders. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised all Australian travellers return home as soon as possible and has also increased the travel warning to the highest level its ever been, warning against all international travel.

Now, both Virgin Australia and Qantas have suspended all international travel.

The Centre for Aviation (CAPA) earlier this week warned most world airlines could be bankrupt by the end of May unless governments take drastic measures to protect them.

“As the impact of the coronavirus and multiple government travel reactions sweep through our world, many airlines have probably already been driven into technical bankruptcy, or are at least substantially in breach of debt covenants,” CAPA said.

“Cash reserves are running down quickly as fleets are grounded and what flights there are operate much less than half full.”

CAPA said governments around the world need to cooperate to save the aviation industry.

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