Passengers stranded as Qantas grounds fleet over crew's strike action

At a daily cost of $21m, the move may spark Australia's biggest aviation disruption in 20 years
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Qantas Airways has grounded its fleet this weekend after sporadic strikes by unions against the company's plans to slash jobs in the near future. \nAll Qantas jets were grounded at the Qantas Domestic Terminal on October 30, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Getty Images)
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Speaking at a press conference this weekend, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said both domestic and international flights were being grounded immediately "in the interests of safety", which included a fleet of 108 planes in 22 countries. The move is expected to impact thousands of passengers. (Getty Images)
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The Qantas check in area is seen empty at Sydney International Airport. As of 8pm Monday, October 31, all workers involved in the dispute will be locked out of the company. Joyce has blamed ongoing Industrial action as the reason behind the grounding. (Getty Images)
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A departures screen shows all Qantas flights as cancelled on October 29, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. The move is expected to cost the company as much as $21m per day, paving the way for Australian aviation’s biggest disruption in two decades. (Getty Images)
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As many as sixty-eight thousand Australians and the tourism industry are reported to have been "grossly inconvenienced" by the measures. The suspension adds to the 600 flights already canceled since union walkouts disrupted traveling plans for 70,000 passengers. Among those without flights are 17 heads of state at a conference in Perth. (Getty Images, Text: Bloomberg)
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Joyce called the unions’ campaign for higher pay and job-security clauses “impossible demands,” and said he was prepared to maintain the halt on operations until workers relent. So far this year, Qantas has lost A$68m from the conflict with unions, and a 39 percent fall in stock price, after strikes led to flight cancellations. Unions have stepped up action since Qantas announced plans in August to eliminate 1,000 jobs, reduce routes and establish new ventures in Southeast Asia and Japan. (Getty Images, Text: Bloomberg)
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To solve the crisis, the government has applied to the labor regulator, Fair Work Australia, to terminate all strikes at Qantas. The tribunal has still not come to a decision after a three-hour meeting. The hearing will resume today to hear additional evidence. If Fair Work orders a termination, Qantas will submit a “safety case” to Australia’s aviation regulator to resume operations, (Getty Images, Text: Bloomberg)
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Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said he was 'extremely concerned' by the disruption, which comes amid the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, a summit with leaders from 54 nations. (Getty Images, Text: Bloomberg))
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An Virgin Australia Boeing 737 lands in front of grounded Qantas jets at Sydney International Airport. Virgin Australia, which is Quantas' largest domestic rival, has worked through the night to plan additional flights to assist stranded Qantas passengers reach their destinations. It has scheduled a wave of new flights today to offer more than 3000 extra seats between the airports of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Karratha and Perth. (Getty Images)
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Critics have called the move a "radical overreaction", condemning the airline for the lack of warning. The Australian & International Pilots Association called the grounding “pre-meditated, unnecessary and grossly irresponsible”. (Getty Images, Text: Bloomberg)
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A display board shows the cancellation of Qantas flights at Hong Kong's international airport. The grounding may become the biggest disruption to aviation in Australia since a six-month national dispute in 1989 saw domestic pilots impose a limit on work hours during a campaign for a 29 percent pay rise. The Royal Australian Air Force stepped in to keep domestic travel running. (AFP/Getty Images, Text: Bloomberg)
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Qantas is Australia's largest airline, with about 65 percent of Australia’s domestic market and less than 20 percent of international travel. Based on its August traffic figures, the Sydney-based carrier flew more than 63,000 passengers on average every day. (AFP/Getty Images, Text: Bloomberg)