As the leading commercial pilots’ union in Australia, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) represents more than 5000 pilot members, including pilots at Qantas Group and Virgin Group companies that have been severely affected by the cuts to international and domestic flights announced in the past 24 hours.
In response to the latest restrictions on entry into Australia and government advice not to travel resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Qantas, Virgin, Regional Express and others are standing down many (and in some cases the majority) of their airline pilot workforce, from the end of March.
Qantas and Jetstar will suspend all scheduled international flights from late March until at least the end of May. As a result, more than 150 Qantas Group aircraft will be grounded.
Virgin Australia is also grounding much of its fleet, including all B777s, A330s and 14 B737s used for international services. Virgin and Tiger Air will also be reducing their narrow body domestic fleet by nearly 30 aircraft.
“The AFAP’s team of pilot representatives and industrial and legal officers are consulting tirelessly with management at all the major airlines operating in Australia”, said Executive Director Simon Lutton.
“Each airline has been affected differently so the AFAP is working cooperatively with each airline to arrive at temporary workable solutions to help the airlines survive and mitigate job losses for pilots,” he said.
Pilots who have been temporarily stood down have agreed to take a number of measures during the crisis, including:
- Agreeing to pilots taking leave owing (such as Annual Leave, Days in Lieu and Long Service Leave);
- Relaxing of certain work conditions (such as delaying roster publication dates);
- Introducing or proposing greater flexibility to previous arrangements (such as the sharing of available flying rosters among the entire pilot group);
- Exploring options for early access to long service leave and leave at half pay; and
- Welcoming airlines allowing pilots with low leave balances to move into negative leave balances.
These measures will take effect from the end of March until such a time that each airline is able to reassess its position in April. The situation is, however, being constantly monitored.
At this stage no redundancies have been discussed other than the voluntary redundancies that had already been called for and underway at Virgin subsidiary Tiger Airways prior to this latest development.
“We also remind our pilot members and their families to make use of the AFAP’s Member Assistance Program that offers free, 24-hour counselling with to a qualified psychologist by calling 1300 307 912,” added Mr Lutton.
Founded in 1938, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) represents and promotes the interest of Australian professional flight crew and champions the highest possible standards of aviation safety. With more than 5000 pilot members, the AFAP is the largest professional association and industrial organisation for commercial pilots in Australia.