Qantas has apologised after a litany of complaints from frustrated passengers who in recent months have endured delayed and cancelled flights, long queues at airports and lost baggage.

The airline is planning to address the problems by scheduling fewer flights in the next month and hire more staff.

Qantas domestic and international CEO Andrew David acknowledges the airline has been plagued with problems that let customers down in recent months, as the airline recovered from the COVID-19 lockdown period.

“My apology to all your listeners,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.

“We are the national carrier, people have high expectations of us, we have high expectations of ourselves and clearly over the last few months we have not been delivering what we did pre-COVID.”

Mr David said flight cancellations and the lost luggage rate were now close to where they were pre-COVID.

“We have reduced some of our flying this month and we’re planning to do the same next month, recognising the operation pressures we have.”

The airline was also recruiting more staff and had already hired 1000 new people since Easter, when airports around the country were at gridlock as people flocked to travel again after state borders reopened.

“As those staff get trained … then hopefully we can add that capacity back in that we’ve taken out to adjust for the operation pressures we’re under,” Mr David said.

One issue yet to be resolved is the fallout from the airline sacking 1600 baggage handlers during lockdown, with the service outsourced to contractors, a decision the Federal Court ruled was unlawful.

“We disagree with that decision and we are appealing,” Mr David said.

That issue is threatening to blow up again as baggage handlers seek to take industrial action that could affect thousands of travellers.

The Transport Workers Union is applying to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote on strike action as it negotiates with Emirates owned baggage handling company, Dnata, over a new workplace agreement.

A strike would impact baggage handling for numerous airlines, including Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Etihad.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine says “overworked, exhausted workers” at Dnata have struggled through two years of stand down with no financial support.

“Rosters are severely understaffed, the most experienced workers are facing pay cuts while conditions are below award minimums,” he said.

“Qantas has become Australia’s worst-performing airline in recent months, with understaffing of airport jobs causing delays, cancellations and lost luggage.

“Dnata has struggled to fill vacant positions because of low pay and casual, part-time work but rather than lift standards or guarantee workers more hours … Dnata tried to bring in overseas,” he said.

Maureen Dettre
(Australian Associated Press)