Travelers warned to expect more disruptions in the coming months

Australian air travelers have been warned to expect more disruption over the next 12 months as the industry scrambles to fill critical labor shortages ahead of the July school holidays.

It’s been a hot couple of months for passengers, who have faced delays, cancellations and missing luggage over the recent Easter holiday and the Queen’s birthday long weekend.

Employers are rushing to fill 5,000 vacancies in Sydney Airport District, cutting 15,000 jobs during the border closure.

Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said 7.30 airports would continue to struggle to hire enough workers in time for peak periods.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” said Mr. Culbert.

Portrait photo of Geoff Culbert, CEO of Sydney Airport.
Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert says travelers should brace for further delays.(ABC News: John Gunn)

“It will be a challenge. We will still have staff shortages during the June-July school holidays. We do everything we can to do it.

“I think you’re going to see that airports are going to be struggling for staff and recruitment over the next 12 months.”

Sydney Airport requires domestic travelers to arrive two hours before their flight and international travelers three hours before their flight to account for delays.

Around the world, airports are struggling with the resurgence of travelers.

‘Out of date’: Customers berate airlines on social media

Man wearing a teal shirt standing outside.
Longtime Qantas customer Kevin Burke says the Qantas brand has been tarnished by poor service.(ABC News: Brendan Mounter)

Customers have taken their frustration with Australian airlines on social media, complaining of flight delays, cancellations, missing bags, hour-long airport queues, unavailability of call center agents and allegations of unfair flight credit terms and conditions.

ABC’s 7.30 spoke to Qantas and Virgin passengers whose luggage has been missing since April.

“I’ve contacted Virgin several times and was just told the same story: ‘The bag comes’ … but it just never came,” traveler Clinton Press said.

Mr Press said he was unhappy with the amount Virgin offered in compensation.

Virgin declined an interview but said it was working around the clock to help its customers.

A woman stands next to a variety of travel bags
Qantas staff sort passengers’ bags at Perth Airport in April. (ABC News: Scott Holdaway)

Longtime Qantas customer Kevin Burke traveled from Darwin to London on several connecting flights.

He told ABC’s 7.30am the trip was plagued with problems.

“I think the Qantas brand is very, very tarnished. The service is not up to par,” he said.

“When we got to Heathrow, the pilot informed us that all of the aircraft’s luggage had been left in Australia to make room for fuel.”

Mr. Burke’s luggage arrived three days later.

Passengers sleeping in airport after canceled flight

Two children sleep in an airport terminal.
Andrew and Kat Gaudin’s children were forced to sleep on the floor at Dallas airport after their flight was cancelled.(delivered)

Last Thursday, a Qantas flight from Dallas to Sydney was canceled at 2am due to a technical problem, leaving many to sleep on the airport floor, including some from the Gaudin family.

“No one told us what was going on,” said traveler Kat Gaudin.

“If that [kids] woke up, they were grumpy, hungry, a little confused.”

The mother-of-four said she felt “let down” by the national airline.

Qantas has apologized for the inconvenience caused to passengers on the flight.

Four children sit on two chairs, including a stroller, in an airport terminal.
Kat Gaudin says the children were moody and confused by the situation.(delivered)

The company’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, has changed language after facing backlash from customers over his comments that passengers were not “match fit” over Easter, and acknowledged the industry was “rusty”. when it started operating again.

Mr Joyce declined to speak to ABC at 7.30am but told reporters in Doha last night: “There are blocks in the chain all the way”.

In a statement, Qantas said it was “working hard to fix the issues we’re having” and apologized to customers whose bags were delayed.

“We go into the school holidays with a lot of confidence [that] we will see a different result.”

Laid-off Qantas workers find jobs but say they fare worse in polls

Long queues at the airport.
During the June long weekend, travelers faced long queues at Sydney Airport.(ABC News: Kamin Gock)

The Transport Workers’ Union argues that Qantas’ outsourcing of workers in 2020 led to the current problems.

“This is about a fundamental structural problem in aviation that was deliberately created by Qantas during the Joyce administration,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

The federal court later found the redundancies illegal and the airline now plans to appeal to the High Court.

A TWU survey of 1,100 former Qantas employees who were outsourced in 2020 found that while the majority have found new jobs, 70 per cent say they are doing worse.

And 71 percent say they have experienced financial difficulties, while 30 percent have developed depression or anxiety.

Qantas denies the union’s claims about outsourcing.

Watch this story at 7.30am on ABC iview.

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