Qantas, Virgin HQ staff on the front lines as airports brace for returning travelers

Sydney resident Julie, who refused to reveal her last name, was separated from her luggage after flying with Qantas to Melbourne on Good Friday. Her bag arrived at her Sydney address six days later after spending about $400 on holiday items — money she thought could only be partially offset by travel insurance.

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“I think it’s all so incredible from a national airline,” she said. “We spend a lot of money on Qantas, we’re frequent flyers, it’s just not what you expect.”

A Qantas spokesperson said delayed baggage has now returned to normal, with fewer than 200 items yet to be reunited with customers due to difficulties making contact.

The Business Council of Australia has called the delays “inevitable” after workforces at some airports fell by as much as 40 percent amid two years of economic shutdowns, but Transport Workers Union’s national assistant secretary Nick McIntosh said there were was not a short-term solution to the underlying problem.

He blamed the Easter scenes on Qantas outsourcing baggage handling and cabin cleaning to airline service provider Swissport in 2021, under an increasingly casual workforce. “We expect there will be problems again,” McIntosh said. “Just putting some staff at HQ won’t magically solve the problems.”

Qantas has rejected the union’s claims, saying aviation is no different from other industries affected by isolation requirements and COVID cases. Swissport was unable to respond within the stipulated time.

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