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© Neena Bhandari, Business Standard, India

As the Flying Kangaroo took off for the skies after Fair Work Australia ordered a permanent end to the industrial dispute between the Qantas management and union members, small and big businesses especially those affiliated with tourism, were counting the cost.

Destination New South Wales estimates Parramasala, a unique international festival which celebrates South Asian Arts, could lose A$750,000 due to artists who did not arrive and lost business for restaurants and hotels. The festival kicked off yesterday at Parramatta Stadium with the Deepavali Fair and runs until November 6.

Five Indian artists from the musical group Chaar Yaar are due to leave Delhi tomorrow morning on a code-share flight with Qantas. Festival organisers fear that if an alternative flight cannot be found, three performances may need to be cancelled and 1600 tickets refunded, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

After a marathon full bench hearing that lasted well past midnight, Fair Work Australia, the national independent industrial tribunal Monday granted the Australian Government’s application to terminate all industrial action by the Australian Licenced Engineers Union, the Transport Workers Union, the Australian and International Pilots Union and Qantas. The ruling now requires the unions to return to the negotiating table and come to an agreement within 21 days or face binding arbitration. 

Unions have resorted to a series of strikes since August when Qantas announced its plans to restructure and outsource to combat annual losses of about A$200m.   


Following Fair Work Australia's decision, Qantas shares rose nearly six per cent to A$1.63 in early trading on the Australian Stock Exchange.   


Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said “This has been a challenging period for Qantas, its employees, its customers and its shareholders. We sincerely regret the impact on customers of industrial action over recent months, and the effect on employees. We look forward to a rapid recovery and to a period of stability enabling us to focus on our customers and our strategy for the airline.”

It is estimated that Qantas will not be fully operational until Wednesday. Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s Monday downgraded Qantas's outlook to negative from stable and Moody's investor service has placed Qantas under review for a possible downgrade. 

“While the current decision to terminate industrial relations actions by FWA, will potentially lead to enhanced certainty of industrial outcomes between Qantas and the three unions concerned, incremental earnings loss and impact on Qantas forward bookings, are likely to exert additional pressure on the ratings,” Moody's vice president and senior credit officer Ian Lewis said in a statement.

The 10th largest airline, Qantas has had an impeccable safety record.

Welcoming the recommencement of Qantas operations, Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy said, “This is a  breakthrough for Australian tourism - an industry which generates A$250 million a day in spending for our economy.”

Karan Solanki and his parents Umesh and Balwant, who are visiting Australia, were due to take the 6.30pm Qantas flight to Melbourne this evening, but decided to take the last available seats on the CountryLink train to Melbourne to avoid disappointment. A train ride to Melbourne takes 11 hours whereas flight time is only 90-minutes.


Karan had witnessed the weekend's chaos first hand following the grounding of the entire Qantas fleet as he worked at a bar next to the international check-in at Sydney Airport. After spending A$495 on three tickets, he told the Sydney Morning Herald he was done flying with Qantas "forever and ever". “I might chuck my frequent flyer card away as well. It’s just not worth it, you know?" 


A sentiment echoed by some of the stranded passengers, who have been dismayed and angry at the unprecedented move that grounded the entire Qantas fleet. “We had a few in-bound passengers stranded in Mumbai, whom we have managed to put on the next flight”, Bruce Manefield, General Manager, Value World Travel, told Business Standard.  


The travel agency, which started a year ago, has captured a huge Indian visiting family and friends market. “Our phones in the three Sydney offices have been running hot throughout the weekend. Most of our customers, however, prefer flying with Singapore or Malaysian Airlines because of good connection time to Indian cities, good fares, special offers and good service,” Mr Manefield added. 


Seven passengers, who bought their tickets through Best and Less Travel, the largest travel agency operating for the Indian market, were scheduled to leave Sydney for Mumbai on Sunday. “We have been able to accommodate them on the November 3 Qantas flight to Mumbai. For the coming Christmas and school holiday season, most of our customers have booked through Singapore followed by Malaysian and Thai Airways”, Mehdi Juddani, Managing Director, Best and Less Travel told Business Standard. The agency offers the cheapest airfares guaranteed to a range of destinations in India.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any www.india-voice.comcontent is expressly prohibited without the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated.

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