Pilots are a strange bunch. By my reckoning, we often don’t consider our work to be actual work. Many of us pursue some form of aviation even in our spare time. Having said that we take our profession very seriously. Imagine coming home from work eager to return day after day, year after year. Is that how you define your place of work?
When I received the call in 1984 to fly for our national carrier Qantas I thought all my Christmases had come at once. The brand was not just a business, it represented the spirit of Australia both at home and abroad.
Former Qantas captain David Evans.Credit:
I had the privilege and honour to fly the Australian iconic flag carrier around the world for nearly 37 years. During that time, I got the chance to see the world and took seriously the role of representing Australia to the world on behalf of the Australian airline – whether it was flying Australians overseas, bringing them home or being the first taste of Australian hospitality for visitors.
Then the world was hit by COVID and our national borders closed, virtually overnight.
Qantas management took the short-term approach to immediately stand down its workforce, without pay, and so 1700 ground handlers were summarily sacked with their roles outsourced.
Ours is not the only industry that suffered, and I don’t ask for sympathy, but to have your pay cut off overnight after years of service felt like a slap in the face. Worse, it was short-sighted; it cost the jobs of thousands of skilled workers, and broke the trust of so many of us who believed in the Spirit of Australia.
How short-sighted was it?
Lengthy queues at Sydney Airport. Credit:
A pilot of any airline goes through hours of training and checking in a simulator and the aircraft to keep what is an extraordinarily safe industry safer. This is already after very likely years of study and finding inventive ways to get hours of flight time, often for free.
Pilots go through checks at least four times a year, every year. Are you tested that often in your profession? Imagine if you had to take your driving test four times a year.
That’s a lot of time, effort and investment just to get off the ground. To reverse the stand-down process and regain those skills for a pilot takes time – not days or weeks or months sometimes, but years.
To make matters worse, during the first year of the pandemic the airline offered voluntary redundancy to all its staff. An effort to stop disastrous financial haemorrhage. These packages looked very good, particularly to those with years of service such as myself, who were in the last decade of their commercial career. The news painted a picture every day of uncertainty, as if we might never fly again. In the end, around 2000 of the most experienced of us left the airline, approximately 300 pilots among that.
With the airline having just turned 100 in 2020, a vast amount of experience and institutional knowledge walked out the door. Not just pilots but check-in staff, cabin crew, and engineers … to name just a few. You can’t replace that collective experience overnight.
It didn’t take Einstein to work out that when the world came out of lockdowns and border restrictions eased that people would be desperately hungry to travel. The chaos we see at our airports is a direct result of this short-term thinking.
I see from the sidelines how our passengers are being treated and it seems so obvious why loyalties are drying up, and why no one is feeling the Spirit of Australia much these days.
I am truly saddened to see Qantas dragged through the mud. All because of the short-sightedness of someone desperately trying to balance the chequebook, maintain a share price and, consequently, their bonus scheme.
It all could have been solved so easily by Qantas showing some reciprocal loyalty to its dedicated and loyal staff, which could have been transferred to our loyal and dedicated passengers.
The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article