Qantas scrambles: supreme effort in ops room, including pizza

Men and women huddled around computer screens, and tension was high - but the clearest sign of stress came from the bin in the kitchen.

Empty pizza boxes were piled like dominos in a bin.

It is a balancing act - though not quite as delicate as the one being performed by those who missed meals with family to throw the boxes there.

The Qantas integrated operations centre in Mascot was buzzing just after 2pm today, as representatives from pilots, engineers, and cabin crew waited for the go-ahead from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The head of the integrated operations centre, Alan Milne, admitted his staff were under pressure - but not much more than usual.

The staff within this centre work to schedule flights in 12-hour blocks.

"It is a little bit more active, but not too much more," Mr Milne said.

"There is a bit of tension, because we do not have the go-ahead yet. We work 24 hours getting airplanes away on time and on schedule, and not being able to do that is frustrating.

"It is frustration rather than stress."

The Qantas fleet may have been grounded, but Mr Milne said the planes had been "in operational readiness" since the shutdown was announced.

"We got the network halted calmly and safely. Then it was a matter of what do we need to do to get them going again. It is a testament to the professionalism of our engineers that they kept working under these adverse conditions," he said.

"Now we are doing what we do on a normal day, just in a more condensed timeframe."

Mr Milne and fellow managers paced the floor, waiting for the approval from CASA.

"It is absolutely a juggling act," Mr Milne said.

"Our crews are on a time limit, and they must stop work after a certain time frame under government regulation. If we start too early then the clock is ticking, and we cant get [staff] to where they need to be before having to bring in replacements.

"We have to get that balance right, but have the flexibility to be able to change if it is needed."