Live: FWA orders Qantas dispute terminated

7.02am: We're up and running again this morning with live updates of the unfolding Qantas situation, including what now for the airline's passengers and how the share market will treat the weekend's exercise. Today's live article can be found here.

2.32am: Following FWA's ruling a little after 2am AEDT, this live article has been suspended. We'll be back with updates later this morning.

Sixty-eight thousand Australians and the tourism industry has been grossly inconvenienced by this high-handed ambush of the passenger.

2.09am: FWA rules the Qantas industrial action must be terminated.

The termination will allow for 21 days of negotiations between Qantas and the unions. If they can't come to an agreement in that time, the FWA full bench will rule on the dispute.

Termination order expected to take effect from 9am. Planes likely to take several hours to get back in the sky after that. Qantas has previously announced via Twitter that no flights would take place before midday at the earliest.

On Sunday, Alan Joyce had told media Qantas would only be able to resume flying with a termination ruling, rather than a suspension.

Bill Shorten has welcomed the ruling.

1.29am: While we continue to await FWA's ruling, Reuters reports that Air France has cancelled one in five flights after cabin crew stopped work for a second consecutive day to protest against employment conditions.

To keep as many planes in the air as possible in the middle of a busy holiday period, the airline limited many short-haul flights to just 100 passengers so that staffing levels met safety requirements. That meant many aircraft were running with empty seats while people were turned away.

Several unions are reportedly urging cabin staff to strike until the end of Wednesday. One of their grievances is a plan to reduce staffing on long-haul trips.

1.24am: Just so you know, we're still waiting for a verdict, folks.

12.22am: The full bench of Fair Work Australia say they will rule on the Qantas dispute at 1am, AEDT.

10:47pm: Some weekends have been wasted, but others may be stranded for much longer, says our reader, David:

  • "I am yet another Unsatisfied customer. I just finished driving back to Sydney from Melbourne. My Sunday down the drain when I should have been home before lunch. However, I really feel for everyone who wasn't as lucky as me. I managed to get home. How long for some of the poor customers?"

10:03pm: The federal government rejects calls to intervene in the grounding of the airline’s fleet as tens of thousands of Qantas passengers remain stranded in Australia and around the world.

9:11pm: One our readers, Pete raises the issue on the effect on essential medical services. He says:  

"I was meant to see patients in Kalgoorlie tomorrow morning for scans to  check on their cancer status but now I'm not able to. Qantas is the only  carrier of urgent medical isotopes. Whilst I support moves to bring the  dispute to a head I think the national rather than political interests  should have taken precedence. I would like to know how Alan and the  board feel about the impact and distress caused to patients right across  the country? Perhaps we should debate the need to a nationalised  segment of Australian aviation to ensure continuation of essential  community services".

8:13pm: Submissions from the various parties have now being heard by FWA. The three judges are now expected to look over what has been said. This process may take up to two hours. We may see an end to the dispute tonight.

8:03pm: Qantas announces via its Twitter feed that there will be no flights until "at least midday tomorrow. A decision on afternoon flights will be made tomorrow morning".

7:36pm: The hearing is now into its sixth hour.

7:24pm: The biggest corporate social media failing of 2011, says reader David:

  • "As a Social Media Strategist, #Qantasfail certainly shows us that Qantas will stand out historically in what happens when a Corporate Giant gets not one, not two but three twitter accounts, then chooses to actively ignore every single passenger crying out for help."

  • "Social Media strategy CANNOT be a one way communication. In the 25 hrs. since the announcement was made Qantas has shown the world at least one employee is sending out over 30 faceless, anonymous tweets yet not a single response to customers cries for help."

  • "As a Social Media Strategist, #Qantasfail certainly shows us that Qantas will stand out historically in what happens when a Corporate Giant gets not one, not two but three twitter accounts, then chooses to actively ignore every single passenger crying out for help."

  • "Social Media strategy CANNOT be a one way communication. In the 25 hrs. since the announcement was made Qantas has shown the world at least one employee is sending out over 30 faceless, anonymous tweets yet not a single response to customers cries for help."

7:12pm: Unions NSW will rally tomorrow, Monday, in support of Qantas workers at Sydney International Airport. Secretary, Mark Lennon says the rally was organised to demonstrate the "groundswell of anger’" across the labour movement at Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s lock out of workers and grounding of the entire Qantas fleet.

The rally will begin at 12.30pm.

7:06pm: Chris Richardson from Deloitte has been called by Qantas to talk about the economic impact of the grounding. He will then be cross-examined by the unions.

6:40pm: Qantas industrial relations manager Sue Bussell is currently giving evidence before the tribunal. By all reports, more witnesses will appear before a decision is made.

6.24pm: Mixed reports coming in from travellers. Some are delighted with Qantas service, others less so. It seems to come down to the personal touch and how individual staff members respond.

  • "My wife and our three children (ages 1-4) were caught in Melbourne, and I was caught in Sydney being booked on a Sun evening flight home to Brisbane.  We heard the news of the grounding early and managed to scramble end get onto flights with other airlines, but at considerable expense (almost $1000!)," emailed Andrew, adding that he did not hold Alan Joyce responsible.
  • Will Roben of Alaska emailed: "My wife and I leave tomorrow morning for Seattle, then Los Angeles.  We are due to fly out of LA on Qantas flight 94 at 11:30 PM, Sunday night 10/30.  We've been talking about Australia for years and have been planning this trip for months.  It is such a long trip for us, that if we can't get a flight in the next few days, we will be forced to choose another vacation destination.  I hope Qantas can resolve this by the time we get to LA.  Unfortunately, if we can't go we will still lose a few thousand dollars in non-refundable hotels, tours and most disappointing of all, we will miss the Melbourne Cup."

6.00pm: Virgin Australia says it's talking to its alliance partners Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Delta Air Lines about extra capacity. The airline is also working with Etihad Airways on plans to add more services between Melbourne and Sydney on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday which would introduce a further 600 seats per day via an Airbus A340-600 aircraft.

5.58pm:  Not everyone is unhappy with Qantas. Reader Brian emailed to say:

  • "After hearing about the problem we contacted Qantas and were booked on an alternative flight within ten minutes. In the mean time they have promised to pay accommodation and food while we add an extra two days to our holiday. Now that's a full service airline. To the insurance companies - I expect the same standard of service."

5:33pm: More than 20,000 people have taken up Virgin's offer of discounted fares to stranded Qantas passengers. Qantas is offering refunds of the difference between fares.

  • "We have so far helped over 20,000 stranded Qantas passengers with the special discounted fare through the website," a Virgin Australia spokeswoman said. "Those were for passengers who were away from their home port, because there limited capacity ... and we want to make sure it is a priority to get them home."   

5.15pm: The Fair Work Australia hearing into the Qantas stand-off heard the carrier was forced to cancel all its flights after the aviation safety regulator had raised concerns about its operations.

Qantas group executive Lyell Strambi, who is responsible for the airline's Air Operator's Certificate, told the hearing in Melbourne today that long-running industrial action by three unions had resulted in a gradual increase in risks on safety.

Mr Strambi said Qantas had received a letter from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority on October 14, outlining their concern over the impact that long-running industrial action against the airline was having on fleet safety. Qantas had three options available, including negotiating in good faith, capitulating, or taking protected industrial action of their own.

He said he took the decision to ground the airline's fleet after chief executive Alan Joyce decided the airline would take protected industrial action in the form of a lockout.

Under cross-examination by Arthur Moses, SC, for the Australian and International Pilots Association, Mr Strambi said based on advice he had received, it would be unsafe for the airline to continue operating during a 72-hour notice period before the lockout because of concerns regarding fatigue and distraction among staff.

5.13pm: Jetstar says an email on Saturday that told staff the airline's parent company Qantas was grounding its fleet was dated last Wednesday only because a mistake was made copying a standard Jetstar header from an earlier staff email. The date was not updated, Jetstar said. "The error was noticed shortly afterwards and corrected," Jetstar said.

5.04pm: The picture Ian Gale sent us of his partner Lauran says it all. They are are stuck in Los Angeles, on their way from their home in Colorado to see relatives in Melbourne. And they are keeping their fingers crossed they will make it for the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.

  • "We had planned on arriving on the Monday and going to the Melbourne cup on the Tuesday. When we got to Denver we were told that Qantas was on strike and that we may not get to Melbourne as planned. We were also told that we would have a better chance of getting back if we at least started our trip and made it to LA to find an alternative flight.

     

    Waiting ... Lauren Dodge sits it out at LA airport. Photo: Ian Gale

  • So, our trip is not really going as planned! Anyway, the staff have been great and it is not in our position to be angry at something so far from our control. It is however very frustrating and tiresome."

 

Waiting ... Lauren Dodge sits it out at LA airport. Photo: Ian Gale

5.00pm: The unprecedented grounding of Qantas flights could have a substantial dampening effect on the economy, analysts warn.

"The longer it drags on, the bigger the impact it has on tourism and potentially freight as well, so that could be a dampener coming into Christmas, a peak time for people flying," AMP chief economist Shane Oliver says.

CommSec chief equities economist Craig James said many Qantas shareholders would on Monday reach for the "sell" button, sending the national carrier's share price even lower after months of languishing under the threat of strikes.

Qantas shares - whose price nudged $6 in 2007 before the global financial crisis (GFC) - have been on a downward trajectory all year amid disputes with pilots, engineers and ground staff on pay, conditions and job security.

The shares briefly breached $2.50 in mid-February after the resumption of talks between pilots and Qantas management which had broken down amid concerns over the offshoring of jobs.

Those fears proved to be well-founded, with the company in August announcing a five-year plan to turn around its loss-making international operations with the establishment of a subsidiary Asian carrier and the loss of 1000 jobs in Australia.

The shares closed at $1.54 on Friday, down by 1.59 per cent.

4.50pm: A reader called Terry tells us:

  • "We have waited a year for an 18 night cruise on the Radiance a trip of a lifetime leaving Fremantle Monday. They have now said because of the Qantas dispute the ships departure will be delayed 24 hours at the moment and one destination will have to be missed plus the first night aboard the ship will stay in dock for late Qantas passengers. We are worried about even longer delays and more missed 15k holiday if this continues."

4.47pm: A traveller called Heath has emailed to say: "I am booked on a flight to Perth tomorrow morning, I still received an email from Qantas early this morning reminding me of my flight!"

4.34pm: It's too early to know how travel insurance companies will deal with the decision by Qantas to ground its fleet, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says.

  • "The decision by Qantas to withdraw all air services is unprecedented," ICA CEO Rob Whelan said in a statement. "It is too early to determine the impact it will have on the insurance industry and on travellers who hold travel insurance policies. The insurance industry urges all parties to resolve this matter swiftly and provide certainty to the travelling public."

4.27pm: The secretary of the international division of the Australian Flight Attendants' Association says it's not surprising the dispute between unions and Qantas has led to a lockout of workers.

"I had meetings with my members that finished about two weeks ago where I said that I expected that it would come to this ... I'm not quite sure why people are surprised," Michael Mijatov told AAP.

4.17pm: Sydney Morning Herald business editor Danny John has provided this insightful piece on Alan Joyce's fractious relationship with Qantas staff.

  • There was already a fair amount of suspicion about Joyce's agenda and his motives when he took over from the long-serving Geoff Dixon, having set up the low-cost offshoot, Jetstar, which not only undercut Qantas' rivals but also the long term position of its parent airline.
    While the success of Jetstar earnt Joyce plaudits at the highest levels of Qantas and secured him the top job, it has come at the expense of a warm working relationship within the company.

4.06pm: ABC reporter Latika Bourke has been tweeting updates from inside the Fair Work Australia hearing, which recommenced at 2pm and is closed to cameras. Here's a selection of her tweets:

  • Civil Safety Aviation Authority was becoming interested in the dispute re safety, says Qantas Exec Lyell Strambi.
  • Strambi 'it's a little bit of a blur' on his conversation with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce about the decision to lock out.
  • Under cross-exam. Strambi says risk assessment conducted did look at the effects of a lock out of staff and accepts considered prior Oct20.
  • Strambi says the AGM Friday was 'heightening tensions' because of lots of rumours. Cross examiner asking if mood of unions was being tested.
  • [Cross-examiner] Moses says Pilots will seek a suspension of industrial action for 120 days.

3.54pm: For those of you worried about @alanjoyce (not the Qantas CEO but the Californian student who has been receiving ample hatemail on Twitter on behalf of his namesake) he recently tweeted:

  • Note: @QantasAirways has contacted me with a graceful apology. I should be thanking them for 300+ new followers :).

3.38pm: Fair Work Australia used to be the Industrial Relations Commission. Its former commissioner, Jack Gregor, has described Qantas' decision to ground flights as "inevitable".

  • “When disputes are protracted, every time someone does something to bring it to a head. It is standard practice. It’s not something an employer would not do lightly. It shifts the pieces around on the board. After getting nowhere for ages someone had to do something different.”

Of a similar belief is the secretary of the international division of the Australian Flight Attendants’ Association, Michael Mijatov.

  • "I had meetings with my members that finished about two weeks ago where I said that I expected that it would come to this ... I’m not quite sure why people are surprised."

3.20pm: Fairfax business journalist Malcolm Maiden explains the key issues at stake in what he describes as "a huge roll of the dice" by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce:

  • "Joyce's gamble is firstly that the pilots, engineers and the TWU will be pressured into negotiating a deal rather than submitting to arbitration. And secondly, he is gambling that if the disputes do go to arbitration, Qantas will be able to show that the pilots and engineers in particular are attempting to lock in work practices that new aircraft no longer require, and extend lucrative Qantas employment conditions down to the group's discount airline, Jetstar, something Joyce and the Qantas board believe would destroy the economics of the Qantas network."

3.16pm: A German backpacker has burst into tears after discovering her flight from Sydney to Cairns had been cancelled.


The distraught German tourist, who would not give her name, despairs as her flight is cancelled in Sydney. Photograph: Dean Sewell

The young woman said she had paid thousands of euros for her holiday and would now have to find another way of getting there.

After waiting in long queues at the ticket counters of the other two airlines, she finally manged to get flights on Jetstar from Newcastle to Brisbane then another to Cairns.

‘‘But I have to get on a train to Newcastle and I heard all the trains are full,’’ the backpacker said, before joining the throng headed for the train station.

3.07pm: Strategic Airlines has added four new flights to its schedule. The airline is selling flights between Brisbane and Perth for $499 and between Melbourne and Brisbane for $349. The new flight times are:

  • PERTH-BRISBANE: Flight VC 5501 departing Perth 1.15pm Sunday, arriving Brisbane 7.45pm
  • BRISBANE-PERTH: Flight VC 5502 departing Brisbane 8.45pm Sunday, arriving Perth 00.15 +1
  • MELBOURNE-BRISBANE: Flight VC5501 departing Melbourne 10.30am Monday, arriving in Brisbane 11.40 am
  • BRISBANE-MELBOURNE: Flight VC5502 departing Brisbane 1.00pm Monday, arriving in Melbourne 4.20 pm

3.03pm: Cricket Australia has had to delay the start of a Sheffield Shield game between Queensland and Western Australia due to interrupted travel plans. The match, scheduled to start at the WACA on Tuesday, will now begin on Wednesday. Additionally, the two Futures League matches scheduled to start tomorrow, South Australia v Victoria and also New South Wales v Western Australia, have been indefinitely postponed.

2.50pm: The government wants an end to Qantas industrial action in favour of conciliation processes, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told reporters.

Addressing the media in Perth, Ms Gillard said she feared the damage the dispute was doing to the national economy and that she hoped the FWA hearing would put an end to ongoing industrial action soon.

"I believe Australians want to see this dispute settled. I want to see it settled," Ms Gillard said.

The government initially applied to terminate or suspend the industrial dispute but it now looks to have hardened its stance, with Ms Gillard repeating that she wanted the dispute to end.

‘‘The government is arguing for an end to industrial action before the commission ... (and) after the end of industrial action, for there to be conciliation processes and if they do not work, for there ultimately to be a determination process to end the substantive matters in dispute,’’ she said.

‘‘So we are seeking an end to the industrial action.’’

2.46pm: Far from a poisoned chalice, Qantas has instead handed Prime Minister Julia Gillard "the greatest opportunity of her prime ministership", writes Australian Financial Review political editor Laura Tingle.

2.36pm: Pilots say they have proof Qantas had been planning yesterday's grounding for days: an email from Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan to all Jetstar staff.

Mr Buchanan's email was sent yesterday, telling staff it was business as usual, but the date on the memo was Wednesday, October 26 and addressed to team leaders, telling them they may be aware Qantas had announced a precautionary grounding of its fleet from 5pm on Saturday, ABC Radio reported.

AIPA vice-president Richard Woodward said the memo showed management knew at the Qantas annual general meeting on Friday they would shut down operations.

2.33pm: The Qantas dispute by the numbers, as at early this afternoon:

  • About 108 aircraft affected
  • About 447 flights have been cancelled
  • More than 68,000 customers affected since grounding at 5pm (AEDT) Saturday.

2.15pm: Qantas is not the only airline which has flights grounded due to industrial unrest. Air France has also cancelled about 20 per cent of its flights because of a strike by flight attendants. The strike is affecting mostly short- and medium-haul flights out of French airports, but 10 long-haul flights were also cancelled on Saturday. One out of five flights on Sunday - about 200 flights - are also expected to be cancelled. The strike, in protest against cuts to cabin crews, comes during an extended school holiday and during a long weekend in France.

2.09pm: In a last-minute interview on his way into the FWA hearing that began at 2pm, ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence reiterated other union claims the Qantas decision to ground flights was premeditated.

  • "Clearly there has been a conspiracy here. Clearly this decision had been made for some time. Nobody believes the decision was made on Saturday and they have been preparing for it for some time."

2.03pm: As the FWA hearing gets back underway in Melbourne, another insight into the impact Qantas' decision is having on travellers.

  • Candice Gallimore and her girlfriend Kylie Dunn were supposed to fly home to Sydney out of Brisbane on a 7pm Sunday flight after attending a wedding.
    Now they have to spend at least two more nights in Brisbane, miss out on pay from their workplaces and fork out almost double what they paid Qantas to get home.
    Ms Gallimore said there were no available flights tomorrow on Virgin or Jetstar and on Tuesday Jetstar was charging $299 per ticket. Virgin’s tickets range from $114 for the latest Tuesday flight to $299 for the earliest flight.
    "‘Qantas said they were going to refund us but we only paid about $100 per ticket,’’ said Ms Gallimore.
    ‘‘The cheapest ticket we can get (to get) back is about $160. I’m missing work and unless I am able to work out of Brisbane tomorrow I won’t be getting paid.
    ‘‘Either way this is costing us a lot of money.’’
    Ms Gallimore said she still had not spoken to anyone from Qantas after receiving a text message saying ‘‘Your flight QF553 has been cancelled, please call Qantas on 1300 659 116’’. She rang the number but hung up after being on hold for 20 minutes.

1.58pm: No love lost between Bob Brown and Alan Joyce, with the Greens leader describing the Qantas chief as ‘‘selfish", "arrogant’’ and "high handed".

Senator Brown called on the government to ensure there was a negotiated settlement between Qantas and the unions representing pilots, licensed engineers, and baggage, ground and catering staff.

‘‘It’s this government’s responsibility to see that there is a negotiated outcome, not a heavy-handed imposed outcome, which will see the loss of Australians out of the critical jobs that we have all come to rely on at Qantas as the airline is effectively re-based overseas,’’ he said.

Describing Mr Joyce’s decision to ground the Qantas fleet, Senator Brown said: "It’s high handed, it’s arrogant and it’s going to lead to misery for Australian workers who have been with that airline far longer than Mr Joyce."

1.48pm: A reminder that the FWA hearing into the Qantas decision to ground its fleet will recommence at 2pm. The emergency hearing of the industrial umpire followed an application by the federal government under section 424 of the Fair Work Act. It went until 1.30am this morning, hearing from Qantas executives, with this afternoon's instalment expected to see union representatives question management.

1.42pm: A selection of tweets from @QantasAirways today with information for travellers:  

  • An online expense claim form is now available at http://bit.ly/uY129c.
  • If you're overseas and have travel plans with Qantas in the next 24 hours international contact numbers are available http://bit.ly/dqaRvB
  • Jetconnect-operated Qantas flights over the Tasman are unaffected by lock-out and aircraft grounding.
  • If you hold a flexi fare then you can cancel your booking via the 'Manage your booking' application on http://qantas.com.

1.38pm: Another sporting team caught up in the fallout: the Northern Territory ten-pin bowling team which has been visiting Rooty Hill for the Ten-Pin bowling championships.

Coaches June Voukolos and Cheryl Munson said they had managed to buy Jetstar tickets online last night when they heard about the Qantas grounding, but they were worried their baggage may exceed the limit.

Mrs Voukolos said it worked out to be $980 for two people to fly to Darwin and "we may have to pay excess baggage".

The team have been in NSW for three weeks and Mrs Voukolos was anxious to get back to see her husband, who is going into hospital for an operation tomorrow.

1.32pm: Alternative means of transport are in high demand given the clamour for flights. 

 Sydney’s major car hire companies have been inundated as stranded Qantas travellers attempt to get home by road.

“Our [car] yard is empty and that’s a first,” said an Avis employee when the Sydney Morning Herald called its enquiries line. "We are experiencing higher call volume than normal," said Thrifty's on-hold announcment, which kept us on hold for some time. The Hertz number was engaged and Rent-a-Bomb's number rang out.

A group of four disgruntled Qantas ticket holders keen to get home to families and jobs in Melbourne told the Herald they couldn't get on a train to the Victorian capital until Tuesday. They had been fortunate enough to nab "Budget's last car" said Bob Shephard. The group had disembarked a cruiseliner in Sydney today at 6am.

Greyhound buses is also experiencing higher call volumes than normal, particularly for its Sydney to Melbourne and Melbourne to Adelaide routes. No additional services have been added as yet but the company is on standby and monitoring demand every 15 minutes.

1.25pm: Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced Queensland will join the federal government's application to Fair Work Australia to terminate all industrial action by Qantas and its employees. Meanwhile, Queensland Rail is also adding extra services north of the border.

1.20pm: For those who missed Alan Joyce's shock announcement yesterday, here is the full video of his press conference.


Alan Joyce delivers his shock announcement that Qantas would ground its fleet on Saturday.

1.14pm: TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon has addressed media outside the Qantas domestic terminal at Sydney airport, accusing Alan Joyce of premeditated action.

  • ‘‘This was a preconceived, pre-planned attack on the Qantas brand by Qantas management. Obviously their intention is to offshore this airline overseas... It’s not the appropriate time for (FWA) termination to be called because there is no industrial action presently being taken by the employees. This is a cynical attempt by Qantas to destroy the economy in one breath and to bludgeon the Australian workforce in the next.’’

1pm: Jetstar says it will pick up some of the slack from the grounding of the Qantas fleet.

The budget airline, a subsidiary of Qantas, has put on an extra Sydney to Melbourne service today and says it is exploring options to add more flights.

A statement from the company said unsold seats on Jetstar flights were being offered to Qantas passengers at discounted prices.

The airline admitted that limited availability meant overall prices were at the higher end of its normal fare range, but said bookings were already very high leading into this weekend, with average loads of up to 90 per cent.

12.47pm: Barnaby Joyce says tourism businesses in his home state of Queensland may face closure due to the ongoing dispute. "There is only one thought going through my mind, and that is fix it and fix it as quickly as you possibly can,’’ he told reporters on the Gold Coast. ‘‘This is putting at risk so many businesses, not only the travelling public, but the tourist strips of Cairns, of the Gold Coast .... so many areas of our nation which are reliant on a vital piece of infrastructure.’’

Senator Joyce also joined joins the ranks of Opposition MPs lining up to criticise the government's inaction over the dispute. "They knew that Qantas was going to hit the deck, that they were going to ground the planes, so what did they do? They did nothing,’’ he told delegates.‘‘It was just a small fire in the curtains so let it burn for a while and it’ll go out. This is not how you run a government, this is out of control."

12.30pm: Out of protocol, the Prime Minister's press conference has focused solely on the soldier deaths in Afghanistan. We're told Julia Gillard will address the Qantas crisis in a separate media conference this afternoon, following the Fair Work Australia hearing.

On Afghanistan, Chief Political Correspondent Phillip Coorey reports that Ms Gillard said the murder of three Australian soldiers and the wounding of three others by a supposed ally was designed to erode the trust in the mission and that between Australian soldiers and the Afghan national army.

Describing the incident as "a bitter day for Australia" Ms Gillard said the mission would continue as planned. She conceded the deaths - which bring to four the number of Australians killed by Afghan allies this year - would cause Australians to ask "deep and troubling questions".

But Ms Gillard said: "This does not change our mission".

12.12pm: Julia Gillard has begun her press conference in Perth. She has started by describing today as a "bitter day for Australia" in reference to the three soldiers killed and seven injured in Afghanistan overnight. It certainly puts the Qantas strife into a bit of perspective.

Julia Gillard flanked by security in Perth. Photo: Andrew Meares

11.56am: Prime ministers visiting Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting face being stranded in Perth because of the snap grounding of the Qantas fleet. CHOGM media director Daniel Gleeson has confirmed 17 heads of delegations had been booked to fly with Qantas and and that many had already been forced to make other travel arrangements.

British Prime Minister David Cameron headed out on this morning on his own government jet. Prime Minister Julia Gillard will leave Perth on this afternoon on the government jet, ahead of parliament sitting in Canberra on Monday.

Mr Gleeson would not confirm where the stranded delegates were from but said CHOGM participants were expected to start leaving Perth this afternoon once the summit was finished.

As well as the delegates, media representatives and police officers could be affected by the cancellation of all Qantas flights. About 700 of the 1200 accredited media personnel covering the event are from interstate or overseas. Police officers from across Australia and New Zealand were flown to Perth to assist with security for the event.

11.48am: More than 46,000 votes have been lodged on our online poll: Has Qantas gone too far by grounding its entire fleet and locking out workers engaged in industrial action? So far, 56 per cent of people say "yes". Cast your vote now.

11.44am: Famous last Qantas words in Bangkok: 'Nothing to worry about'. Lindsay Murdoch reports that Claudia Braun was so afraid of being stranded in flood ravaged Bangkok she telephoned Qantas hours before flight QF2 left London for the Thai capital, a scheduled stopover on the way to Sydney.

But almost 18 hours into the flight, shortly before QF2 was to land in Bangkok on Saturday night, she and 300 other passengers were told the flight was being suspended in the city that is under threat from the worst floods in half a century.

11.41am: Julia Gillard will be holding a press conference on Qantas in Perth at 12 noon AEDT.

Meanwhile in Brisbane, German travelers Diana Maus and Annette Moosbrugger are ending their four week Australian holiday with a 13-hour wait in the airport.

A bad end to the holiday for Diana Maus and Annette Moosbrugger. Photo: Bridie Jabour

They were supposed to fly home via Singapore and London at 1.40pm (Queensland time) on Qantas but have been moved to a 11.45pm Singapore Airlines flight.

"I was on a boat yesterday and saw the news (about Qantas) but we didn't know what was going to happen until we got here," said Ms Moosbrugger. "We tried to ring the 13 13 13 number over and over but it was busy do we just came to the airport."

The pair said they were trying to decide what to do for the rest of the afternoon and night before their flight.

"This can happen anywhere in the world," said Ms Maus. "The workers have to do what they have to do for their rights."

11.28am: The federal government is livid at the Qantas grounding, with the Prime Minister and several of her cabinet colleagues hitting out at the snap decision by management over the past 24 hours.

The latest to air his wrath is Assistant Treasurer, and former union heavyweight, Bill Shorten, who has branded the grounding a "radical overreaction" to the standoff between the airline and unions.

  • "In industrial disputes, sure employers have views and unions have views, but what I don't support is the no-warning nature of what's happened. Sixty-eight thousand Australians and the tourism industry has been grossly inconvenienced by this high-handed ambush of the passenger.
  • "If the unions had locked out the passengers, I would have been equally outraged. But in this case it is the Qantas management that has done, in my opinion, the premature and wrong thing when plenty could have been done in a sensible nature."

11.25am: Qantas passengers stranded in Adelaide may have to wait until Tuesday before they can fly out on alternative flights. Jane Hooper, who is trying to get home to Sydney from Adelaide Airport told AAP she waited in a Qantas service queue for an hour today before being put on a wait list that opens at noon.

  • "I have to wait until 12pm (CDT), that's when they open up the wait list, if I don't get that it will probably Tuesday before I can get a flight."

11.21am: In Perth, Herald Chief Political Correspondent Phillip Coorey reports that Julia Gillard has kicked all her staff off her prime ministerial jet to get ministers back from CHOGM to Canberra for the start of Parliament. The staff have been shunted onto Virgin flights instead after the government block booked a range of seats soon after the grounding was announced.

John Lee. Photo: Dean Sewell

11.13am: Two press conferences have just concluded at Sydney Airport. Tourism and Transport forum CEO John Lee said the grounding was having a terrible impact for Australia's tourism reputation.

  • "This is not only about the future of an airline, it's about workers and the people who want to fly. There are over a million people involved in the tourism industry, the tourism industry needs certainty. This is not good for brand Australia.
  • "Remember the airlines that have not adapted to change - Pan Am, TWA, Eastern - there are a plethora of airlines who wouldn't adapt and change."

AIPA vice president Capt Richard Woodward said the decision to strand thousands of Qantas passengers was clearly premeditated. He said it was "unnecessary and arrogant in the extreme" and was pre-planned to escalate the dispute at the time of the CHOGM summit and in the lead-up to Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.

He also said that Qantas's actions may be in breach of the Fair Work Australia Act. In terms of whether the pilots association would take legal action against Qantas, he said they were considering their position and that the legal team would be very busy.

11.04am: So, here's how the Qantas decision played out: 

  • 64 aircraft in the air at 5pm yesterday, 36 domestic and 28 international carrying more than 7000 passengers.
  • They  completed their sectors and then grounded.
  • 108 aircraft will be grounded in 22 airports.
  • 13,305 passengers booked to  fly Qantas to Australia between Saturday and Monday.
  • About 1310 international passengers due to fly on Saturday are thought to have been immediately affected.
  • Qantas says passengers will have their fares refunded or can change flights.
  • Jetstar, QantasLink and JetConnect are not affected.
  • Virgin Australia has added more flights; Greyhound have also put on more buses.

Flight screens at Sydney's Qantas domestic terminal. Photo: Getty Images

11.00am: The Qantas topic on Twitter is red hot. Meanwhile, the Queensland Airline Industry coordinator for the TWU Peter Paulos has just finished a phone hook up with about 20 delegates from Cairns down to the Gold Coast. Mr Paulos said the meeting was about keeping their members updated and in the loop.

"There is a lot of anger really for the damage that Alan Joyce is doing to the company and the brand and to the public," he said. "There's 80,000 people stranded worldwide, it's incredible, I really don't understand it.

"Maybe Alan Joyce is channelling Margaret Thatcher, I don't know." He said the workers were still calm and were not backing down from their "fight".

10.49am: Qantas domestic passengers are complaining on TV of not being kept informed by the airline about what is happening. But what is happening to Qantas pilots and crew who have been grounded overseas? Are they now  stranded too?

One Sydneysider, who is stranded in Hong Kong, has emailed to say Qantas is asking passengers to share hotel rooms with strangers. "Qantas now has the gall to ask people who have been displaced to share accommodation with complete strangers in hotel rooms ...  many people are very upset at this."

10.29am: Entrepreneur Dick Smith  says he is amazed that Qantas international is still in business. He wrote in the Telegraph: "It's obvious that unless CEO Alan Joyce is allowed to make huge changes, the whole airline will go broke. I can't understand why the unions don't get that."

10.21am: The federal government should have staged an intervention in the escalating dispute between Qantas and its unions earlier, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell says. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has called on the federal government to use all of its powers to bring the dispute to a head, and get Qantas aircraft back into the sky "as quickly (and safely) as possible".

"Obviously the longer this dispute lasts, the worse it will be for our international reputation," he told ABC Radio today.

But Labor frontbencher Nicola Roxon told Sky TV that the industrial umpire - Fair Work Australia - should resolve the dispute, not the government.

10.19am: Sky has reported that Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has just arrived at Sydney Airport and is thanking staff for all their efforts.

Deserted ... the Qantas terminal at Melbourne. Photo: Wayne Hawkins

10.13am:  Asked on ABC TV this morning  if there was an "element of up yours" about executive salaries, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline was doing the right thing by employees with salary increases. He said the easiest thing for him to do would have been to give in to union demands but that would not be in the long-term interests of the company.

10.11am: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been asked on ABC 24 about his salary. He said in 2009 he took a 30 per cent salary cut and a 20 per cent cut last year. He said he got paid less today than he did when he ran Jetstar four years ago, adding that he was not the nation's highest paid CEO. He said his salary was not outrageous and there was a lot of misinformation about it.

10:08am: “Sixty-eight thousand Australians and the tourism industry have been grossly inconvenienced by this high-handed ambush,” Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten told the ABC today. “There is no case for this radical overreaction. In industrial disputes, sure, employers have views and unions have views, but what I don’t support though is the no-warning nature of what’s happened.”

10:07am:Flight Centre says it has called extra staff into its outlets to help Qantas passengers come up with alternative travel plans. The company's managing director, Graham Turner, also took a swipe at the federal government for not sorting out the dispute before it reached this point. "Given domestic tourism's importance to the Australian economy, the government should have acted sooner to protect this extremely valuable asset," he said.

10:06am: Mr Joyce said the airline's international business was losing $200 million a year and it was getting worse. The airline had to adapt to survive. He said Qantas was one of the strongest airlines in the world.

10.00am:Mr Joyce told ABC 24 that he felt he had to bring the dispute to a head. He said if Qantas had not taken the action now there would have a "slow roasting of Qantas" by the unions for another year.

He apologised to customers affected by the dispute but said  he had been "overwhelmed" by the support the airline had received for the action it had taken.

9.45am: Virgin has announced it will offer 3000 extra seats to help passengers stranded after Qantas grounded its fleet. Virgin is offering special "stranded passenger" fares for people who hold a Qantas ticket to return home within the next five days. The fares are offered at a 20 per cent discount on available "saver" fares on Virgin and Pacific Blue flights, for travel through to Thursday.

9.43am: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce will be interviewed live on ABC 24 at 10am AEDT. Will this give any insight into the intentions of the man who has stopped more than half of Australian aviation?

9.37am: At the Brisbane Airport, Virgin is doing a booming business as Qantas customers line up to get on one of their flights. Cole and Deena Allen came to the airport and went straight to the Virgin desk to try to get the next flight to Melbourne.

"We are actually just starting holidays and want to get down to Victoria to see our grandchildren," said Mrs Allen. "We always book with Qantas because they are so reliable, or used to be."

Queues begin at the Virgin counter at Brisbane Airport.Photo: Bridie Jabour

The problem with being on holidays is you don't necessarily watch the news. While Brisbane Airport's domestic Qantas terminal is generally very quiet this morning, a number of passengers are turning up with no idea the airline has been grounded.

Passenger Jon Casson said he was shocked when he arrived for a flight to Melbourne and was told the fleet was grounded. "I don't know what the hell Qantas are playing at but this seems a bit extreme," he said. "The air hostess I spoke to seemed a bit worried too. I've never heard of such a thing."

9.34am: The airline's decision has left many flyers venting their anger.

  • "To resolve this at the expense of paying customers on one of the biggest flying days in Australia is quite frankly ... bizarre, unwarranted and unfair to the loyal customers that Australia has," a businessman, who only gave his name as Barry, told Sky TV at Melbourne airport after he was stranded.
  • Zoe Johnson, an Australian living in Switzerland, said: "I'm proudly Australian but it just leaves a really bad taste in your mouth. So many people say, 'I'm never going to fly Qantas again', and from my point of view its just feels like a kind of bullying tactic really."

Qantas is a member of the OneWorld airline alliance, which includes Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malev, Mexicana, Royal Jordanian and S7 Air. Alliance members often use partners' routes and flights to shore up their own networks. Cathay has already warned its own passengers of potential disruptions on Qantas connections.

9.26am: Never one to miss an opportunity, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has laid the blame for today's industrial chaos at Qantas squarely at the feet of the Gillard government. He said Australia's international reputation was suffering the longer the dispute dragged on.

  • "When you've got tens of thousands of people stranded, who are away from home, and you have tens of thousands who can't get to work, you've obviously got a very serious situation on your hands, this is why airlines are an essential service in a modern economy. This is where the government's irresponsibility kicks in.
  • "The government has been asleep at the wheel for weeks, they've been informed, but not alarmed, but nothing has happened in the meantime ... it's come to a catastrophic head for Australians. This is not a policy problem. This is a competency problem on the part of the government."

9.01am: Air New Zealand says it is also considering adding extra trans-Tasman flights to help stranded travellers. The company says it will know what it can offer by this afternoon. A plan being hatched with partners Virgin would see Air NZ replace Virgin flights flying to and from New Zealand, so Virgin can reschedule the flights to fly domestically in Australia.

8.46am: "The number you have dialled is either busy or has not been answered ..."

We just tried an experiment - we were going to see how long we had to wait on hold on Qantas' 131313 number, but we couldn't even get through. Feeling for all those Australians experiencing phone rage about now.

8.40am: Virgin Australia has responded to the problems plaguing Qantas passengers this morning, offering discounted 'Stranded Passenger' fares for those stuck at a port away from home. The fares will cost 20 per cent less than available Saver fares on Virgin Australia and Pacific Blue flights, for travel through to next Thursday, November 3. The airline advises these fares may not be available on all flights. More information here.

8.37am: Amid all the serious ramifications of this industrial dispute, a bit of humour. Alan Joyce, a Californian student, responds to all the hate he's receiving on Twitter.

8.26am: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has again defended the airline's stance on Sky News this morning. He says Fair Work Australia would need to order a termination of industrial action from the airline's unions to get the Flying Kangaroo back in the air.

  •  "A termination stops the lockout, but we have to make a decision about putting the airline back in the air. A suspension may not necessarily mean the airline gets back in the air. If it's a suspension, we cannot put the planes back in the air without having certainty. A termination gives us certainty, a suspension, depending on what the suspension looks like, does not necessarily give us certainty."

Mr Joyce denied that the strategy in grounding the airline was to push the federal government to intervene.

8.11am: Qantas last updated its advice to customers at 11.20pm last night. The full statement is here, a few highlights below:

  • If your flight number falls within the range QF1400-2699 you are travelling with QantasLink and your flight is not affected by the grounding so you should travel to the airport as normal.
  • Qantas codeshares with a number of airlines, these carriers are continuing their operations as scheduled. These flights have both Qantas and alternative carrier flight numbers eg. QF319 and BA16.
  • Domestic customers: If you are away from home and between flights, Qantas will arrange accommodation, meals and transfers for you. If you are away from home and beginning your journey today, you will need to source your own accommodation.
  • International customers: Qantas will arrange accommodation, meals and transfers for you.

8.03am: A recent tweet from @QantasAirways. Probably no surprises.

  • Qantas Reservations (131313) are experiencing extremely high call volumes. We're very sorry for all affected customers.

7.59am: Members of Australia's cricket team have been caught up in the Qantas imbroglio as they attempt to return home from South Africa.

Doug Bollinger, Xavier Doherty, James Pattinson, Steve Smith and David Warner were last night having transfers arranged so they could get back to Australia as quickly as possible.

7.46am: The ABC is reporting that the Qantas grounding has caused chaos at Singapore's Changi airport, where many passengers are stuck at the terminal.

The grounding has also reportedly stranded hundreds of passengers at London's Heathrow airport and Frankfurt in Germany.

7.41am: Some figures on the grounding:

  • In total 108 aircraft will be grounded in 22 airports around the world.
  • 13,305 passengers are booked to travel on Qantas planes from overseas ports to Australia between Saturday and Monday.
  • About 1310 international passengers due to fly on Saturday were thought to have been immediately affected.

7.30am: Good morning everyone. We'll be using this live blog today to try and keep you up-to-date with the situation surrounding Qantas grounding its entire fleet in response to industrial action from three unions: the Australian and International Pilots Association, Transport Workers Union and Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association. A wrap up of the situation from last night:

  • An emergency Fair Work Australia hearing went until 1.30am overnight, before being adjourned until 2pm today.
  • A reminder that QantasLink, Jetstar and Jet Connect are operating as normal.
  • Qantas says it may help with bookings on another airline, and accommodation but only those flying in the next 24 hours should call at this stage. Phone 131313.

 

 

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