Aviation

Jetstar cancels 90 flights over pilot strike as smoke causes havoc at Sydney Airport

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Travellers flying with Jetstar this weekend would be well advised to double-check their flights as the low-cost carrier cancels just shy of 100 flights over the weekend.

The airline’s CEO Gareth Evans told a press conference this morning that 44 flights would be cancelled on Saturday and 46 on Sunday with other passengers accommodated by consolidating affected flights, moving services onto larger aircraft or rescheduling flights and putting passengers on Qantas flights, according to the The Sydney Morning Herald.

Though 80 per cent of flights will operate as scheduled, hundreds of passengers are expected to be affected.

On Monday, the Australian Federation of Pilots (AFAP) announced Jetstar pilots would be walking off the job for four hours on both Saturday and Sunday this week as negotiations continue between the union and the airline.

According to Jetstar, AFAP is seeking the equivalent of a 15 per cent pay increase for Jetstar pilots which the union’s executive director said in November made them the “lowest-paid jet airline pilots”.

However, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported the union is only asking for a 3 per cent pay rise and the 15 per cent figure is based on an exaggeration of non-salary claims.

Union pilots who operate the airline’s narrow-body aircraft will stop work from 5am to 9am on 14 and 15 December. International pilots who operate the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners will not operate from their home base between 2:30pm and 6:30pm on Saturday and 9:30 and 1:30pm on Sunday.

About 80 per cent of Jetstar’s pilots are members of the union.

“We know the union’s actions are creating uncertainty for travellers,” Evans said.

“We remain committed to reaching a new agreement to support the great work our people do every day, but not at any cost.”

But pilots aren’t the only Jetstar employees set to walk off the job this week, with the airline’s baggage handlers and ground crew announcing they will strike for two hours on Friday.

“Scary stuff”

The strikes come as the airline recovers from flight disruptions at Sydney Airport due to an IT issue while other airlines battled with visibility issues from the heavy smoke caused by nearby bushfires.

A spokesperson for the Jetstar said the disruptions were “incredibly frustrating” for customers.

“Our teams worked as quickly as possible to get passengers on their way,” the spokesperson said.

The IT issues caused delays and cancellations to both domestic and international flights.

The spokesperson said customers affected by the disruptions were entitled to refunds or a change to their travel date at no additional cost.

One passenger told Travel Weekly his flight was delayed by five hours.

“Not only were we given no information but our gate was unattended and had no staff well past boarding time,” said Sam Eacott, who was scheduled to fly to Tasmania with the airline yesterday morning.

Virgin Australia also experienced delays of up to two hours as a result of the heavy smoke from nearby bushfires which blanketed Sydney on Tuesday.

Virgin’s Launceston to Sydney and Hobart to Sydney services were diverted to Canberra to refuel before landing, causing a delay of up to two hours.

Sydney Airport was operating under low visibility conditions between 11am and 2pm causing flights arriving in Sydney to be delayed by up to 30 minutes.

Smoke alarms also went off inside the airport as a result of the smoke but no evacuations were necessary.

“The visibility outside slowly turned to zero as a general haze fell upon the inside of the airport. Scary stuff,” Eacott said.

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