Travellers to and from Australia are rushing in for alternate airlines as Qantas remains grounded for the second day.
Etihad Airways and Emirates airlines, which together operate more than 100 flights to several Australian destinations are witnessing seats disappearing faster than the speed of the aircraft.
Several travellers who had booked on Qantas to Australia from several European destinations are rebooking on Emirates and Etihad Airways.
Etihad Airways on its part is going a step ahead to provide capacity for Australian travellers affected by the Qantas dispute.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad that has partnered with Virgin Australia, pledging its support to Australian travellers disrupted by the Qantas dispute says it might operate a shuttle service between Sydney and Melbourne on certain days of the week using Etihad Airways aircraft; also operate a daily flight between Sydney and Bangkok.
The Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, said he would be working closely with Virgin Australia Chief Executive John Borghetti to assess and meet Australia’s capacity requirements during what was certain to be an unsettling period for Australian travellers.
"We are already looking at a range of options to support Virgin Australia in its home market by freeing up additional flying to make aapacity if required," Hogan said.
"We also stand ready to assist Qantas passengers who are stranded overseas and need to travel home, and have advised our call centres worldwide to do everything possible to assist people in these circumstances – in fact, to help anyone whose international travel plans have been affected.”
Etihad Airways operates 24 weekly flights from Australia to the UK, Europe, the Middle East, and North America via its hub in Abu Dhabi. This includes double daily flights from Sydney, daily flights from Melbourne and three weekly flights from Brisbane. It offers connections to and from other Australian cities and towns in conjunction with its partner Virgin Australia group of airlines.
Emirates airlines on the other hand said it is trying its best to assist affected passengers. The airline operates more than 70 flights a week to Australia from various destinations.
The airline, however, is continuing to allow online booking from UAE to certain destinations in Australia using the Qantas code share. A call centre executive when asked to explain why the website was allowing passengers to book online despite the flights being grounded said, “Qantas has not closed its online bookings and therefore we cannot ask advise the passengers. They can decided whether to book or not to book tickets.,” he said.
According to a Qantas statement posted on its website, QantasLink, Jetstar, Jetconnect services, and the freight services (Express Freighters Australia and Atlas) will continue to operate as normal.
Qantas codeshares with a number of airlines, these carriers are continuing their operations as scheduled. These flights have both Qantas and alternative carrier flight numbers QF1400 to 2699.
“Qantas codeshares with a number of airlines, these carriers are continuing their operations as scheduled,” the statement said.
Customers are advised not to travel to the airport unless they are travelling on a QantasLink , Jetstar or Jet Connect flight and are urged to reconsider any non-urgent travel and defer their travel plans wherever possible.
“If your flight number falls within the range QF1400 - 2699 you are travelling with QantasLink and your flight is not affected by the grounding so you should travel to the airport as normal,” it said.
The airline has also urged passengers travelling later this week and the following days not to cancel their tickets. “Only customers travelling within the next 24 hours should call our Contact Centres or the local Qantas Office to discuss their alternatives.
If you are travelling in the next few days/weeks, please monitor the situation on qantas.com. We recommend that you do not change your booking until closer to the date of departure,” it added. Qantas is providing a full refund for any flights cancelled due to the industrial action.
EARLIER STORY: Qantas Airways grounds fleet
Qantas Airways grounded all of its aircraft around the world Saturday due to ongoing strikes by its workers.
The Australian carrier's entire fleet of 108 aircraft will remain grounded indefinitely until unions representing pilots, mechanics and other ground staff reach an agreement with the airline over pay and conditions, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told a news conference in Sydney.
"We have decided to ground the Qantas international and domestic fleets immediately," Joyce said.
Flights already in the air when the announcement was made were to continue to their destinations.
Staff will not be required to show up at work and will not be paid starting Monday, Joyce said.
Joyce said he made the decision early Saturday and then gained the approval of the Qantas board.
The airline had been forced to reduce and reschedule flights for weeks because of a weeks-old series of strikes and overtime work bans over staff concerns that their jobs are being moved overseas.
Joyce estimated the grounding will cost the airline $20 million a day.
Virgin Australia to add services
Airline Virgin Australia said on Saturday it would accommodate Qantas passengers on current services where possible and was looking at adding more services in response to Qantas grounding its fleet over a labour dispute.
"The airline is also in discussions with alliance partners to add extra capacity into the market as soon as possible," it said in a statement.