Is your Virgin blue flight cancelled? The answer seems to have been ”Yes” for one passenger in 50 yesterday, as two per cent of the schedule went down all over the country.
Virgin Blue says part of it was bad luck. Two jets had servicing problems, itself not unusual, but they were in the wrong places, namely mid-air on a Perth flight and on the ground in Canberra.
And there are claims that pilots are ”not co-operating” with rostering decisions they don’t like, just as they don’t like the company’s proposed new EBA which is still under negotiation.
Some pilots who want a bigger slice of Virgin Blue’s stellar climb to world beating profitability are catching colds, getting migraines or otherwise finding excuses for not filling their rosters. The ”sickie” has long been the bargaining lever of choice for disaffected airline employees world wide but not always a successful tactic, as hundreds of former Cathay Pacific, Northwest, United and other carrier staff have discovered down the years.
Whatever the reasons, cancelled flights are hurting passengers. Just about every Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin Blue flight around the country is booked to the last set of kneecaps at the moment.
It has been like this for weeks and it shows few signs of changing. No wonder the APA mob are so determined to buy Qantas and Jetstar. There are almost no seats to anywhere in any class, including overseas.

Last year internal employee satisfaction polling in Virgin Blue recorded a big U-turn in sentiment. It was no longer the happy Virgin family it had been. It had become bigger and more successful and more profitable than non-Virgins had ever imagined would be possible.

Suddenly no one could remember everyone’s names. Pilots, pit crew and cabin attendants were running into colleagues they didn’t recognise. The intimate, enthusiastic ‘crusader’ culture of the early came under the stress of success, something senior management has acknowledged but as hundreds of angry ‘guests’ are finding out, has not yet solved.

Will these tensions damage the Virgin Blue success story, or are they inevitable and solvable?

The answers may lie on the far side of more cancellations, or a better pilot EBA might become a miracle cure for influenza.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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