JobKeeper will be extended for thousands of aviation workers for another seven months. Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper
JobKeeper will be extended for thousands of aviation workers for another seven months. Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper

Airline workers win JobKeeper extension

More than 8000 airline employees unable to work because of international border closures have won a seven-month extension of JobKeeper.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce provided details of the $500 a week "direct support payment" to employees at a town-hall meeting in Sydney on Thursday.

He described the allowance as the "centrepiece" of the federal government's $1.2bn aviation support package designed to help airlines survive until the COVID vaccine rollout is complete.

Only Australian-based employees stood down due to the lack of international flying are expected to be eligible for the payment which will continue until borders reopen, tipped to occur in late October.

Qantas and Jetstar have about 7500 workers from their international operations who are likely to be paid the allowance, and 1100 Virgin Australia employees may also be eligible.

The government package also included support to activate aircraft including A330s, Boeing 787s and 737s through training for crews to ensure their safe return to service.

The wide-body A330s, normally used for international routes, will be put on domestic services including Sydney and Melbourne to Cairns from late March.

The support was not extended to Qantas' A380 fleet which is not slated for a return to service until November 2023.

Australian and International Pilots Association president Murray Butt welcomed the announcement of the weekly allowance as "positive news" but said there was still much detail yet to be finalised.

"It's sort of a continuation of JobKeeper for international crew who are still stood down," said Captain Butt.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at the March 11 announcement in Sydney about federal government support for the aviation industry. Picture: Dylan Coker/NCANewswire
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at the March 11 announcement in Sydney about federal government support for the aviation industry. Picture: Dylan Coker/NCANewswire

"The majority of domestic crew are expected to be stood up by the end of March, and therefore no longer reliant on JobKeeper."

He was of the understanding the payment would be in addition to any secondary employment international pilots had undertaken to help tide them through until they were stood up again.

Capt Butt said uncertainty about a return to work had limited the sort of jobs pilots could do in secondary employment, which meant financial stress was an ongoing concern.

As well as more detail on the new weekly allowance, Capt Butt said they were still unsure what A380 pilots would do when the payment ended in late October.

"We're waiting for Qantas to tell us what their plans are. People wouldn't expect to stay stood down until 2023," he said.

The Flight Attendants Association of Australia was also encouraged by the $500 a week support, but raised concern about the delay in the first payment, due in the second half of April, and the non-inclusion of stood down domestic workers.

Domestic travel will get a boost when 800,000 taxpayer-subsidised, half-price airfares are released over four months, from May 1.

The cheap fares on 15 routes within Australia will go on sale from April 1, and have already seen more traffic to airlines' websites in an encouraging sign for the aviation and tourism industries.

Originally published as Airline workers win JobKeeper extension



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