Qantas and pilot union go to court over who gets to fly the Airbus A380

Qantas is fighting against its pilot unions over who gets to fly the Airbus A380
Markus Mainka /

Qantas sued the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) as it accuses the pilot union of blocking external hires to fly the Airbus A380. 

The airline filed the case against the union on April 26, 2023, with Justice Goodman, a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, ordering a hearing to be held on May 26, 2023.  

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Fair Work filing is about the two sides disagreeing on who would be promoted to fly the Airbus A380, as the Australian carrier has reintroduced more of the Super Jumbos over the past months. While Qantas wants to hire externally, AIPA has pointed out that this would break a tradition that has lasted “more than half a century” to promote internal candidates to fill roles on larger aircraft, in this case, the A380. 

“The pilot seniority and allocation system has been accepted at Qantas for more than half a century to provide dedicated and long-serving pilots with a clear career pathway,” Tony Lucas, the President of AIPA, was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald. 

However, Qantas is citing the fact that the airline is already “at near capacity” in terms of pilot training, which is why it wants to make the best use of its resources to train as many pilots as it possibly can. 

Responding to the peak travel period 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian carrier, much like any other airline operating the type, put its Airbus A380s into long-term storage. 

As travel has continued to recover and passengers returned in large numbers, Qantas brought back its A380s, starting with VH-OQB in January 2022. Currently, out of 10 aircraft of the type, the Australian airline operates seven Airbus A380s, with only three, namely VH-OQA, VH-OQC, and VH-OQI, still inactive, according to data. The trio is marked as being in maintenance, indicating that they could join the carrier’s fleet soon. 

But during H1 2023 results presentation, Qantas stated that the lack of slots at Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) providers is “impacting return-to-service of remaining A380s through to early 2025”. 

“While interest rates and inflation are expected to hit discretionary spending at some point, we’re yet to see any signs of that in our bookings. In fact, the research shows travel is one area that people want to prioritise over the next 12 months,” said Alan Joyce, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Qantas Group at the time. 

AeroTime approached Qantas for comment. 

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