Senior executives at Qantas could trade their high-profile positions to work as ground handlers as part of a plan to combat labour shortages.

The embattled airline’s chief operating officer Colin Hughes told staff in an internal memo they are seeking expressions of interest for a contingency program over a three-month period.

“People who respond to the EOI will be trained and rostered into the ramp environment at Sydney and Melbourne airports,” Mr Hughes wrote.

“These people will support our ground handling partners, who are managing the Qantas operation, over a three-month period from mid-August.”

At least 100 managers will be recruited to sort and scan bags and transport luggage. Mr Hughes added, “there is no expectation that you will opt into this role on top of your full-time position”.

It comes after at least 1600 baggage handlers were sacked during lockdown, with the service outsourced to contractors, a decision the Federal Court ruled was unlawful.

Qantas previously vowed to appeal the decision.


The once highly regarded airline recently apologised after a litany of complaints from frustrated passengers who have endured delayed and cancelled flights, long queues at airports and lost baggage in recent months.

The airline is hoping to address the problems by scheduling fewer flights in the next month and hiring more staff.

Qantas domestic and international chief executive Andrew David acknowledged the airline had been plagued with problems that let customers down in recent months, as the airline recovered from the COVID-19 lockdown period.

A Qantas spokesperson said the airline was committed to improving its services.

“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,” they said in a statement.

“As we have done in the past during busy periods, around 200 head office staff have helped at airports during peak travel periods since Easter.


“While we manage the impacts of a record flu season and ongoing COVID cases coupled with the tightest labour market in decades, we’re continuing that contingency planning across our airport operations for the next three months.”

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