In a surprising move, Australia's Qantas Airways has officially grounded its entire fleet today, and stopped all domestic and international flights as part of an ongoing and messy dispute with the airline's three unions.
Qantas, which is often recognized as one of the safest airlines in the world, has been fighting with the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), the Australian International Pilots Association (AIPA), and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) over pay, working conditions, and the continued outsourcing of jobs internationally. In addition to grounding its 108 aircraft in 22 airports around the world, as of 8pm on Monday the airline will also be locking out all of its domestic employees who are involved in the dispute. Worried that the unions were "...trashing our strategy and our brand," Qantas head Alan Joyce claims that the grounding and lockout "...is the fastest way to ensure the airline gets back in the air." While, not surprisingly, the Transport Workers Union feels the decisions are "reckless, unwarranted and disgraceful".
While the dispute continues Qantas is offering full refunds for flights cancelled due to the industrial action, as well as the option to rebook them at a later date once the situation has been resolved. And travelers who've now found themselves stranded internationally will be able to claim reimbursements for food, accommodations and alternate travel arrangements. [Qantas via ABC Australia]