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Sunday 17 April 2022

Travel chaos as cost-cutting operators drop the ball

Travel is not as much fun as it used to be - as many Australians are discovering over the Easter weekend.

The shambolic Easter rush at airports hardly came as a surprise - airlines know how many people are booked for each flight - but both airports and flight operators were caught short by the post-Covid demand.

Qantas, fresh from being under fire for its dismal call centre response times and slow refunds, managed to lose the luggage of passengers on several flights after it was not loaded on time. The slow loading was a result of staff shortages.

With one million Australians expected to get on a plane at some point during the holidays, the system buckled.

One of the major reasons: the fact that airlines and airports prefer not to offer full-time employment - instead sub-contracting work to agencies like Swissport.

That means baggage handlers, cleaners and security staff - among others on minimum wages - simply do not turn up to work if they feel unwell, or don't want to work on a public holiday. They are casuals and entitled to work if and when when they wish.

Security contractors have warned the problem could even extend beyond Easter, as they struggle to build their numbers up to pre-pandemic levels.

Transport Workers’ Union national secretary Michael Kaine held a press conference with former Qantas workers at Sydney Airport on Thursday morning, and linked the decision to outsource 2,000 baggage handling roles with the “catastrophic scenes” at airports.

The shortage of baggage handlers means it's not only departing travellers being delayed, but also arrivals waiting an hour or more to retrieve their luggage and left milling around the terminals.

There are also long queues being reported at security screening points at airports around the country.

But it is not about Covid, or unexpected demand. 

It's all about big businesses cost cutting by outsourcing their jobs and then getting caught short. More snouts are in the trough on the supply chain. And travellers pay the price.

Despite the incompetence, airports continue to promote themselves with images like that above. Paper bags. Heads. 

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