Qantas grounding: how it went down. Angry Qantas staff are confirming to Crikey what unions and ministers have already suggested (and Qantas now admits): contingency plans were put in place for grounding the fleet well before CEO Alan Joyce made the call on Saturday. A non-union (and understandably anonymous) Qantas pilot left stranded by the grounding tells us:

“I am informed by two separate sources within Qantas that hotel rooms may already have been sourced in Qantas slip ports in advance of the grounding and also that management have been working on something since at least Monday. Lends a lot of weight to Minister Albanese’s comment that: ‘I’ll leave it for those who know something about the aviation industry to deliberate whether that decision was made this morning or whether there has been some planning prior to this morning’.”

Indeed, and backs what Transport Workers Union boss Tony Sheldon has been saying. Meanwhile, we’re told by one transport spy that courier drivers who delivered the lockout notices to employees on Saturday were given those bookings on Friday. Crikey has obtained the notice to long-haul pilots

But what about accommodation for staff? Another anonymous tipster writes:

“Qantas pilots currently in hotels around Australia are being asked to do the right thing by customers and the company and remain on standby to fly, but at the same time have had letters placed under their doors and sent to their wives/husbands/partners at home informing them at 8pm Monday all accommodation will be cancelled and they will be left stranded.”

That happened on Saturday night, we’ve been told. Crikey was forwarded parts of the letter from Lyell Strambi, group executive Qantas Airlines Operations. It stated:

“If you are scheduled to be in an Australian slip port during the notice period but prior to the lockout commencing, Qantas will provide you with accommodation and allowances and normal pay practices will apply until the lockout commences. After the lockout commences Qantas will not provide pay, allowances or accommodation.”

Writes another pilot:

“At the same time, scheduling and fleet managers have been telling all pilots they must remain on standby at hotels in case we are needed to fly. In other words, we are on call now, but at 8pm Monday we are going to be left stranded away from home without accommodation or a way home to our families.”

Meanwhile, stranded customers hoping to jag a Jetstar flight to get home faced a hefty bill — even with Qantas’ promised refund. Writes one watcher: “Jetstar flights from Sydney to Perth went from $179 one-way in the hour after the announcement of the Qantas grounding to $589 barely three hours later when I eventually booked.” That stings.

And insurers? Says another customer: “Insurance companies are refusing to honour any policies booked after October 16 in regards to the Qantas grounding as ‘as there had been extensive media coverage as to the possibility of a strike action it was no longer an unforeseeable event’. This is despite the fact the grounding of an entire fleet by a CEO is as far as I know something unprecedented in the history of aviation.”

Chinese curious on mining damage. We hear a delegation of 15 Chinese officials (from Shaanxi province) visited the small NSW town of Picton to meet with local Rivers SOS activists (who are trying to reduce the extensive damage to water systems caused by mining). Apparently coal mining in their province is also causing major issues with water …

Newspaper free-for-all (cont). “Saw these just inside one of the gates at AAMI Park for the Melbourne Heart/Sydney FC match on Saturday night being given away in Herald Sun showbags.”

Peter Fray

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