In a leaked internal memo, Qantas CCO is asking for 100 volunteers from the airline's senior ranks to work as ground handlers for three months.
Qantas is asking 100 executives and senior managers to swap the soft office seats and personal assistants for a three-month spell as a ground handler. The embattled airline has put an HQ SOS out, asking for volunteers. The temporary work placements will run for 90 days on a five-day-a-week basis, although there is no suggestion the executives will receive the same weekly wage as the permanent ground handling crews.
Multiple news outlets are running a report on Monday, citing an email sent by Qantas Chief Operating Officer Colin Hughes saying that "during your time in the contingency program, you'll be an embedded resource within the ground handling partners. This means you'll receive a roster, be scheduled to operate and be supervised and managed in the live operations by our grand handling partners."
This writer rather enjoys the idea of Mr. Hughes, CEO Alan Joyce, and other top-ranking Qantas execs like Vanessa Hudson, Andrew David, and Olivia Wirth loading and unloading his bags on his next Qantas flights. He kindly asks that they don't drop, damage, misdirect, or lose his stuff.
There's no word from Qantas on whether any of those high-profile figures will abandon their offices for three months, with the email likely targeted at those a bit lower down the ranks. However, Qantas Loyalty boss Olivia Wirth did make a good impression helping out customers at the self-service kiosks at Sydney Airport recently. We hear she swiftly and happily resolved all manner of issues with her Qantas iPad. If only that kind of fast and friendly issue-resolution was the norm at Qantas.
Qantas, which styles itself as Australia's premium airline and charges accordingly, has lately made the headlines in Australia for all the wrong reasons. Like many other airlines, it is plagued by workforce shortages and operational challenges. The airline drastically reduced its workforce during the pandemic, including outsourcing around 1,700 ground handling jobs. Reliable ground handling services, or rather, the lack of them, is one of the big problems Qantas faces.
The ground handling contractors are busy trying to rehire, but the pay and conditions are so subpar that there are relatively few takers. Still, there might be some frank conversations at the baggage loading belt between some under-the-pump Dnata employee ground handler and a well-oiled Qantas exec moonlighting for a few months. It could be illuminating for both sides.
In June, Australia's self-styled premium airline had the highest cancelation rate among Australia's domestic carriers, although more recently, Virgin Australia has had a serious tilt at that trophy. On Sunday, Qantas canceled 3% of its flights and delayed a further 15%. It could have been worse. You could have booked to fly on low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, which canceled 8% of their flights and experienced delays on 21% of flights.
After a hard day's toil on the airport apron or dealing with disgruntled passengers in terminals, Mr. Hughes says there is no need for the redeployed execs to pop into the office on the way home and catch up on paperwork. There is "no expectation that you will opt into this role on top of your full-time position," the email says. "It's our singular company focus to support our teams to get our operation back to where it should be and provide our passengers the experience they expect from the airline."
What do you think about Qantas' call for volunteers? Let us know in the comments!
Lead Journalist - Southwest Pacific -.A Masters level education and appetite for travel combine to make Andrew an incredible aviation brain with decades of insight behind him. Andrew’s first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing Australian airlines adds exciting depth and color to his work. Andrew is based in Sydney.