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Qantas Forced to Fly a Boeing Dreamliner Full of Lost Bags But No Passengers

Qantas Forced to Fly a Boeing Dreamliner Full of Lost Bags But No Passengers

a large airplane flying in the sky

Australian flag carrier Qantas was forced to fly one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners between Melbourne and Sydney without a single passenger onboard but it’s belly-hold full of luggage on Friday.  The airline operated the special intercity luggage shuttle in order to reunite passengers with bags that had been left behind as chaotic scenes at Australian airports heralded the start of the Easter Holidays.

The flight had to be quickly chartered after Qantas was slammed in the media for leaving customers without any clothes at the start of their holidays.  The Sydney-based airline said only a “small number of flights” had departed without luggage loaded in recent days because of COVID-related staffing “challenges”.

“Decisions were made to have these flights depart without baggage to ensure that customers could get to their destination and not face long flight delays or cancellations,” the airline said in a statement on Friday.  A similar decision was made more than 10,000 miles away in London by British Airways after facing its own staffing woes on Thursday.

Some of the delayed baggage is simply being put on later flights and couriered to customers at great expense to Qantas.  But in a move that would suggest the number of misplaced bags is far greater than originally thought, Qantas has also chartered one of its widebody Dreamliner aircraft to transport displaced luggage between Sydney and Melbourne.

Qantas normally only uses its Boeing 787 Dreamliners on long-haul international services.  Low-cost subsidiary Jetstar is also using some of its Dreamliners on popular domestic routes such as between Melbourne and Cairns to increase passenger and luggage capacity.

“We really appreciate people’s patience and understanding and apologise for the inconvenience,” a spokesperson for Qantas said after the airline came in for criticism over its performance in recent days.  Qantas says it will transport half a million people on more than 4,600 domestic flights during the extended Easter weekend.

The spokesperson blamed the luggage fiasco partly on COVID-19 isolation requirements that have seen employee sickness rates swell to as much as 50 per cent in some departments even though staff don’t actually have Coronavirus.  The airline said it “rejects” a persisting suggestion that the problems are linked with Qantas’ decision to outsource ground handling jobs around a year and a half ago.

As well as blaming Qantas, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) also blames Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the current woes facing Australian travellers.  

“Australians can thank Scott Morrison and his absent government for being stuck at airports rather than doing Easter egg hunts with kids,” blasted Michael Kaine, TWU national secretary.  “Staffing shortages were entirely predictable – the sector was hit hard by the pandemic but failures by the Morrison government to insulate the workforce have exacerbated the challenges,” Kaine continued.

Qantas says it has brought in 200 head office managers to help out with baggage and check-in at both Sydney and Melbourne airports.

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