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Qantas asks 100 executives to fill in as baggage handlers amid staff shortage

Qantas is asking dozens of its senior executives to fill vacancies among its baggage handlers as it attempts to cope with a staffing shortage, the airline confirmed Monday. File Photo by Dan Himbrechts/EPA-EFE
Qantas is asking dozens of its senior executives to fill vacancies among its baggage handlers as it attempts to cope with a staffing shortage, the airline confirmed Monday. File Photo by Dan Himbrechts/EPA-EFE

Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Qantas is asking dozens of its senior executives to fill vacancies among its baggage handlers as it attempts to cope with a staffing shortage, the airline confirmed Monday.

The Australian national carrier is asking for about 100 volunteers from its executive ranks to work as baggage handlers for three months amid a labor shortage.

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The company is looking for volunteers to work at Sydney and Melbourne airports, two of its three primary hubs.

"The high levels of winter flu and a COVID spike across the community, coupled with the ongoing tight labor market, make resourcing a challenge across our industry," Qantas executive Colin Hughes said in a statement.

Staff will be expected to sort and scan bags, load them into aircraft and drive them around the airport. They will also need to be capable of lifting up to 71 pounds.

Volunteers will not be expected to carry out their ground handler role on top of their existing responsibilities.

The airline is in the grips of a staffing shortage. On Sunday, 19% of Qantas flights were delayed and 5% were canceled.

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In July, Qantas Domestic and International CEO Andrew David penned an op-ed, detailing the challenges his company is dealing with.

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"Restarting an airline after a two-year grounding is complex and aviation labor markets, as with many others, are extremely tight," David wrote at the time.

"Some have pointed to Qantas' decision to outsource ground handling as a key reason the restart has been hard. This is not true. We had completed the ground handling changes before Easter 2021 when domestic travel was back to almost 100% and we didn't have the issues we had at Easter this year."

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Qantas is far from alone in dealing with a lack of employees.

Sparked by rising passenger complaints over compensation for delayed and canceled flights, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently proposed stricter rules for airlines in how they define when redress is needed.

Traveler complaints have soared since the COVID-19 pandemic as the airline industry struggled with employee sicknesses and worker shortages overall. Passengers have often complained that carriers have not been properly compensating them for those inconveniences.

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