Qantas asks executives to work as baggage handlers for three months

By Peter Hoskins
Business reporter

Stock image of man holding suitcaseImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Airlines were forced to lay off thousands of staff members during the pandemic

Australian airline Qantas has asked senior executives to work as baggage handlers for three months as it tries to tackle an acute labour shortage.

The firm's head of operations is looking for at least 100 volunteers to work at Sydney and Melbourne airports.

Tasks include loading and unloading bags as well as driving vehicles to move luggage around airports.

Like much of the global airline industry, Qantas is struggling to resume its services as borders reopen.

"The high levels of winter flu and a Covid spike across the community, coupled with the ongoing tight labour market, make resourcing a challenge across our industry," Qantas' chief operating officer Colin Hughes said in an email shared with the BBC by the company.

"There is no expectation that you will opt into this role on top of your full-time position," Mr Hughes added.

The managers and executives were asked to work in the baggage handling roles for three or five days a week, in shifts of either four or six hours a day.

The note went on to say that applicants need to be able to move suitcases weighing as much as 32kg each.

"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," a Qantas spokesperson told the BBC.

"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."

Qantas was among airlines hit hard by the pandemic as countries closed their borders, grounding planes.

The industry laid off thousands of staff during the pandemic, many of which were ground staff.

In November 2020, Qantas outsourced more than 2,000 ground staff roles, on top of thousands more job cuts it had already announced, in an effort to limit its financial losses.

Last month, the airline apologised after passengers complained of delays and missing luggage.

Australia had among the strictest Covid travel restrictions in the world, including for its own citizens, and only began lifting the controls in November 2021.

As measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 have eased around the world, Qantas and other major airlines have struggled to resume services at the scale seen before the pandemic.

UK airlines and airports have also faced staff shortages, leading to delays and cancellations during holiday periods.

Shortages of baggage handlers have also been contributing to luggage piling up in terminals.

Airports including Heathrow have put a cap on passenger numbers over the summer to help manage demand, leading to some airlines suspending ticket sales for certain routes.

You may also be interested in:

Media caption,

On board a non-stop flight from London to Sydney