Qantas was obliged to fly one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners between Melbourne and Sydney without a single passenger onboard on Friday, but the belly-hold was packed with cargo.
As chaotic scenes at Australian airports signaled the start of the Easter Holidays, the airline organized a special intercity luggage service to reconnect travelers with bags that had been left behind.
After Qantas was chastised in the media for leaving customers without clothes at the start of their holidays, the flight had to be hurriedly chartered. Due to COVID-related personnel “challenges,” only a “limited number of aircraft” have flown without luggage loaded in recent days, according to the Sydney-based airline.
“Decisions were made to have these flights depart without baggage to ensure that customers could get to their destination and not face long flight delays or cancellations,” the airline stated in a statement released on Friday. After encountering its own staffing issues on Thursday, British Airways took a similar decision more than 10,000 miles away in London.
Some of the delayed baggage is simply rescheduled for later flights and couriered to consumers at Qantas’ expense.
However, Qantas has chartered one of its widebody Dreamliner planes to transfer displaced luggage between Sydney and Melbourne, implying that the number of missing suitcases is significantly more than previously assumed.
Qantas’ Boeing 787 Dreamliners are usually reserved for long-haul international flights.
Subsidiary with low costs Some of Jetstar’s Dreamliners are also being used on busy domestic routes like Melbourne-Cairns to boost passenger and cargo capacity.
“We really appreciate people’s patience and understanding and apologize for the inconvenience,” a spokesperson for Qantas said after the airline came in for criticism over its performance in recent days. Qantas says it will transport half a million people on more than 4,600 domestic flights during the extended Easter weekend.
The suitcase debacle, according to the spokesperson, is partly due to COVID-19 isolation regulations, which have seen employee sickness rates rise to as high as 50% in some departments despite the fact that employees do not have Coronavirus.
The airline said it “rejects” claims that the problems are related to Qantas’ choice to outsource ground handling jobs a year and a half ago.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU), in addition to condemning Qantas, accuses Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the present travel issues.
“Australians can thank Scott Morrison and his absent government for being stuck at airports rather than doing Easter egg hunts with kids,” blasted Michael Kaine, TWU national secretary.
“Staffing shortages were entirely predictable – the sector was hit hard by the pandemic but failures by the Morrison government to insulate the workforce have exacerbated the challenges,” Kaine continued.
Qantas has hired 200 head office managers to assist with luggage and check-in at both Sydney and Melbourne airports, according to the airline.