Qantas grounds entire fleet amid industrial dispute

SYDNEY, October 29, 2011 (AFP) – Australian flag carrier Qantas on Saturday took the drastic step of grounding its entire fleet indefinitely in an escalating industrial dispute, a move unions called “a stunning overreaction”.

The airline, which has been hit by a series of strikes, said all employees involved in the action would be locked out from Monday evening without pay and flights grounded from 0600 GMT Saturday.

“We have decided to ground the Qantas international and domestic fleets immediately,” chief executive Alan Joyce said.

The airline said pilots, engineers and baggage, ground and catering staff were essential to Qantas operations and their lockout made it necessary to take all planes out of service.

“Aircraft currently in the air will complete the sectors they are operating. However, there will be no further Qantas domestic departures or international departures anywhere in the world,” it said.

The Australian government said it was “very concerned” by the dramatic development and accused the airline of a “breach of faith” by failing to give it advance notice.

“I think it is certainly a breach of faith with the government, the fact that there was no advanced notice of this action being