• Qantas' plan to alleviate travel mayhem is "actually likely to make airport chaos worse," a union said.
  • The airline has asked senior office staff to volunteer as baggage handlers at airports.
  • Australia's Transport Workers' Union has warned this could cause safety incidents.

An Australian transport union said that airlines like Qantas Airways who have been asking office workers to help out in understaffed airports were "actually likely to make airport chaos worse."

The Australian flag carrier wants at least 100 managers and executives to help out from mid-August for three months. Their tasks would include loading, unloading, sorting, and scanning bags.

"Throwing inexperienced workers into the aviation mix is actually likely to make airport chaos worse, particularly given the serious risks of injuries and safety incidents if workers aren't appropriately trained and experienced," Michael Kaine, national secretary of Australia's Transport Workers' Union, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

He told Australian Aviation that the move would likely throw airports "into further disarray."

The airline countered this, telling The Herald that the executives would undergo "the same level of training as any new recruit."

Passengers have faced a summer of travel chaos worldwide because of a combination of understaffing, soaring demand for travel, technical issues, and strikes. This has led to flight delays and cancellations, lost luggage, and huge lines for check-in and security. A baggage handler told The Guardian Australia in July one in 10 bags were not making it onto Qantas flights at Sydney airport.

Qantas hit the headlines in 2020 after it replaced 2,000 ground staff with outsourced workers, citing the need to cut costs and the impacts of the pandemic on the aviation industry. Australia's federal court ruled that the move was unlawful, which Qantas appealed but lost. The airline is now trying to appeal in the country's high court, The Herald reported.

Kaine, the union secretary, told Australian Aviation that Qantas asking for office staff to help was an "admission" that the move had "achieved nothing other than the total devastation of what was once Qantas' trusted service."

"It's a shocking insult that nearly 2,000 experienced workers are forced to sit at home because their jobs were stolen," Kaine continued. Qantas told The Herald that data had showed that outsourced ground handling had a lower rate of safety incidences than in-house handling.

A Qantas spokesperson told Insider on Monday that it was making contingency plans because a combination of ongoing COVID-19 cases, a bad flu season, and "the tightest labor market in decades" were affecting its airport operations.

They added that around 200 Qantas office staff members have been helping out at airports since Easter.

"We've been clear that our operational performance has not been meeting our customers' expectations or the standards that we expect of ourselves — and that we've been pulling out all stops to improve our performance," the spokesperson said.

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