Around 2,500 Qantas (ASX: QAN) and Jetstar employees will be stood down for approximately two months in response to COVID-19 outbreaks around Australia that have forced most domestic borders to be closed for an extended period of time.
The airline claims the stand down is a "temporary measure" to manage a significant drop in flying caused by COVID restrictions, particularly in Greater Sydney, and the knock-on border closures in all other states and territories.
Qantas says no job losses are expected.
"This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we're now faced with an extended period of reduced flying and that means no work for a number of our people," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
"We've absorbed a significant amount of cost since these recent lockdowns started and continued paying our people their full rosters despite thousands of cancelled flights."
The airline says today's decision will impact domestic pilots, cabin crew and airport workers, mostly in New South Wales but also in other jurisdictions.
Employees will be given two weeks' notice before the stand down takes effect, with pay continuing until mid-August. After August the airline says workers can claim government disaster payments.
Joyce said lockdowns and border closures decimated the domestic aviation sector last month.
"Qantas and Jetstar have gone from operating almost 100 per cent of their usual domestic flying in May to less than 40 per cent in July because of lockdown in three states," he said.
"Hopefully, once other states open back up to South Australia and Victoria in the next week or so, and the current outbreak in Brisbane is brought under control, our domestic flying will come back to around 50 to 60 per cent of normal levels.
"Based on current numbers, it's reasonable to assume that Sydney's borders will be closed for at least another two months. We know it will take a few weeks once the outbreak is under control before other states open to New South Wales and normal travel can resume."
The CEO said the successful rollout of the Federal Government's COVID-19 vaccination program is key to ensuring the industry can fly steady domestically, but issues surrounding international travel remain.
"This vaccine rollout means the end is in sight and the concept of lockdowns will be a thing of the past. Australia just needs more people rolling up their sleeves as more vaccine arrives.
"The challenge around opening international borders remain. There are still several thousand Qantas and Jetstar crew who normally fly internationally and who have been on long periods of stand down since the pandemic began.
"Higher vaccination rates are also key to being able to fly overseas again, and finally getting all our people back to work."
Updated at 9.18am AEST on 3 August 2021.
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