Qantas asks office staff to work as baggage handlers at airports as travel demand soars, report

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Volunteers may be asked to assist passengers with lost baggage and ferry people through security. James D. Morgan / Contributor/ Getty Images
Volunteers may be asked to assist passengers with lost baggage and ferry people through security. James D. Morgan / Contributor/ Getty Images
  • Qantas has asked office staff to help it meet peak travel demand by working in Australian airports.
  • They may help customers find lost bags and work on security, according to a memo seen by Bloomberg.
  • The airline industry is facing a labour shortage globally amid soaring travel demand. 
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Airline executives are having to get creative to find solutions to an industry labour shortage. For Qantas, that means looking within, by asking office workers to fill in as baggage handlers and security at airports. 

On Wednesday, Melbourne staff at Australia's biggest airline, as well as staff at its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, were asked to help the airline meet peak July travel demand, according to Bloomberg, which cites an email sent by Jetstar's airport operations. 

According to the memo, which outlines the "Airports Peak Contingency Plans," staff may be asked to help find lost baggage, distribute water, and help speed travellers through security, Bloomberg reported. 

A representative for Qantas told Bloomberg that 200 volunteers signed up when the airline made a similar request during the Easter holidays. 

Qantas and Jetstar did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, which was made outside of regular business hours. 

Airlines globally are struggling to find enough staff to meet soaring demand for travel. Workers have been slow to return after being laid off in their thousands when the Covid-19 pandemic grounded global travel. This left airlines short of pilots, flight attendants, and baggage handlers. 

Those problems, coupled with wider economic turbulence in the form of surging fuel costs and route disruptions related to the Ukraine war, have led to thousands of flight cancellations and long delays at airports.

Air passenger numbers rose 76% in the year to March 2022, according to the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association. Those numbers are only expected to increase as airlines enter summer in the northern hemisphere and peak levels for international travel. 

Qantas laid off thousands of staff during the pandemic

Qantas, like most airlines around the world, laid off thousands of staff as a result of the pandemic. The "Flying Kangaroo" as it's sometimes called, resumed international flights following a strict Covid-19 lockdown, in November 2021. 

In May, a union representing Qantas pilots warned that the airline's post-Covid expansion plans could increase the pressure on pilots. The plans include the purchase of 40 A321XLR jets from Airbus, as well as operating what will be the world's longest non-stop passenger flight between Sydney and London, and flying non-stop to New York

"Your decision-making is slower, your reaction times are slower, you're more likely to get a poor landing," Tony Lucas, president of Qantas chapter, of the Australian & International Pilots Association, told Bloomberg in relation to proposals aimed at meeting surging demand for air travel.

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