Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has warned that the airline might be forced to revisit the notion of standing down staff if COVID-19 border closures and extended lockdowns continue across Australia.
In a message to staff, Joyce said the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions have meant the airline is facing "frustratingly familiar challenges" to last year, with more than 14 million people in NSW, Victoria and South Australia were subject to stay-at-home orders.
"We're not at the point of requiring stand-downs in our domestic operations at this stage," he said.
"But to be honest, we can't rule it out if multiple states keep their borders closed for extended periods."
The message comes as Qantas was hit with numerous cancelled flights as South Australia joins Victoria and New South Wales in entering a hard lockdown period.
"NSW is a key part of the Qantas and Jetstar network, so that lockdown has already seen our total domestic flying fall from 90 per cent of pre-COVID levels to around 60 per cent," he wrote.
"When you add in the Victorian and now South Australian lockdowns, our total flying drops below 40 per cent."
Is Qantas' history repeating itself?
In mid-2020 Qantas staff were stood down without pay or on forced leave as the national carrier moved to shed 6,000 jobs and slash costs to weather the coronavirus storm.
But Joyce points out in his latest memo to staff that this time around the situation is a little different.
"Unlike last winter there's now a COVID vaccine rolling out, and that means this cycle of restrictions and lockdowns will break."
More COVID-19 government support measures
The news comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison shoots down calls to reinstate the wage subsidy program JobKeeper, even as half the country has entered into lockdown in a bid to contain the latest Delta COVID-19 outbreaks.
In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Morrison defended the $600 and $375 lockdown payments and indicated there would be no new financial or economic support from the Federal Government.
“These payments are the same level of payment that was being provided in the December quarter in JobKeeper. Exactly the same,” he said.
“The only difference is they're being paid by the Government direct, not through your employer.
“And the design of these payments is designed to support the lockdowns in encouraging people to be able to stay at home … as a result of the lockdowns,” he said.
But the Australian Services Union calls for more federal government support for workers, warning that the livelihood of thousands of Australian workers and their families now hang in the balance and JobKeeper is the only thing that will save their jobs.
"We need to recognise that the COVID-19 crisis before us now is as bad, if not worse, than last year's lockdown and economic fallout," the union's Emeline Gaske said.
Qantas free flights for vaccinated Aussies
In May, Qantas said it is considering a plan to reward customers who have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Qantas chief customer officer Stephanie Tully said the airline was thinking about offering incentives like frequent flyer points or flight vouchers to encourage Aussies to be vaccinated.
The airline has said it will require all passengers to be vaccinated when it restarts international flights beyond the New Zealand bubble.
At the time the airline was expecting to offer international flights from July, but that has now been postponed.
- with AAP