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.
Most important points:
- Broome will be serviced by a full-time Qantas engineer after multiple cancellations from the city’s airport
- The aircraft engineers’ union said the problem was caused by a lack of willingness to staff regional hubs
- The cancellations have frustrated Broome residents who have accommodated stranded travelers unable to 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.
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.
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.
Shire of Broome president Harold Tracey said the “disappointing” situation may have left tourists feeling bad after their vacation.
“If you’re stuck at an airport and waiting to get home, it doesn’t matter where you are,” he said.
“You don’t get the most endearing memory.”
Passenger Anthony Hinkley was frustrated by a cancellation two weeks ago but was amazed at the friendliness of the locals who housed him after Qantas staff couldn’t find accommodation†
“I just saw people showing up at the airport, ladies, gentlemen, all kinds of different people, [and say], ‘I have a room. Who would want to come?’, and, afraid, they would just go,” he said.
“So my experience in Broome was love the people, loved everything I did there.
‘Would I come again? Yes, but next time I will fly with Virgin.’
Virgin Australia has also canceled several flights at Broome International Airport.
Delays and cancellations have become the new norm at airports in Australia, which have seen a surge in flights after COVID-19 restrictions were eased, but without enough staff to operate them.
Last week, the situation forced Qantas to preemptively cancel 19 flights over regional WA, which were scheduled to take off over the next four weeks.
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