QANTAS says it has been forced to ground two more Boeing 767 airliners from Monday due to union bans, cutting a further 20,000 seats and 80 flights a month from its schedule, with warnings of more to come.
With no end in sight to the industrial wrangles, it means Qantas will have grounded seven aircraft, cutting 88,000 seats and 500 flights for the next four weeks.
The airline is subject to overtime bans from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association over stalled pay-and-condition talks, as well as rows with the Transport Workers Union, representing ground handlers and caterers, and the main pilots' union.
''The ongoing action from the licensed aircraft maintenance engineers' union means we do not have the manpower to fulfil all of the necessary maintenance on our fleet of aircraft,'' said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce.
But the federal secretary of the engineers' union, Steve Purvinas accused Qantas of misleading the public over the first five groundings, four 737s at Avalon and one 767 at Brisbane. "We have obtained Qantas's own paperwork which shows that the aircraft they are referring to today were actually slated for disposal back in April, and has absolutely nothing to do with our dispute,'' he said.
Mr Joyce dismissed the union's claim. ''These aircraft are flying this week and from Monday they won't be. When we clear the backlog of maintenance then the aircraft will be put back into service. It's as simple as that,'' he said.
Qantas was in talks with the Transport Workers union yesterday, will meet the engineers' union tomorrow and the pilots' union on October 28 - the day pay rises for airline management will be targeted at the airline's annual meeting.
¦ Air safety investigators have released their final reports into two Qantas incidents on take-off and landing. In the first case, the safety bureau found pilots of a 767 were preparing to land at Sydney in October 2009 but forgot to put the wheels down. They were 150 metres off the ground when an alarm sounded as the pilots realised the error. Investigators found the pilots were distracted in landing procedures by several interruptions.
In February this year, the wheels of an Airbus A330 caught fire after pilots came to a halt from high speed after an aborted take-off. The pilot in command felt a sideways lurch as the A330 approached lift-off. To the pilot, the jolt felt like an engine failure, and the pilot aborted take-off. Investigators found the plane was hit by a sudden side wind.