Three people with suitcases walk past a Broome sign smiling

Qantas to land a full-time engineer at Broome International Airport to avoid cancellations

Qantas plans to locate a full-time aircraft engineer in Broome to alleviate flight cancellations forcing locals to accommodate stranded passengers who cannot find accommodation.

The cancellations affect the tourist hotspot in Western Australia at its busiest time of year, as accommodation prices soar and rooms are fully booked months in advance.

Qantas, which has seen a series of cancellations at Broome International Airport in the past two months, said the disruptions were caused by “COVID-related staffing challenges” and “technical requirements”.

The airline confirmed to the ABC that it had sent a full-time engineer to service flights at the city’s airport to deal with technical issues.

“We now have a full-time engineer in Broome and [are] We are working to build our local technical capabilities to minimize the risk of cancellations,” said a spokesperson.

Broome International Airport serves the peak tourist season for the region.ABC Kimberley: Andrew Seabourne

Permanently ‘unmanning’ behind problems

Federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), Steve Purvinas, said the move followed cuts in permanent staff in the northwest part of the state.

He said two engineers based at Karratha Airport prior to the pandemic were regularly transported to airports in the northwest to service Qantas aircraft.

Airport sign with canceled flights
Flights around the Northwest were also canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.ABC Pilbara: Verity Hughes

Mr Purvinas said that changed after the pandemic hit, when the airline pulled a flight engineer from Karratha Airport serving many communities in the Pilbara region.

“This wasn’t a one-off COVID event, it was a permanent emasculation of that port,” he said.

“The [engineering] problems that occurred in Broome this year are not because someone was sick with COVID.

Broome is not staffed [by a full-time engineer] for 20 years.”

He said the airline has now “thrown a QantasLink guy into Broome permanently, which we think is a better option”.

“The steps are positive, but it cannot undo the delays passengers have suffered so far,” said Mr Purvinas.

Residents affected by cancellations

Residents and business owners in Broome were frustrated by the flight cancellations, which they said had left the city to deal with the fallout.

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