Qantas Slashes Frontline Jobs at Sydney Airport, Self Check-in of Passengers Looms

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By Vittorio Hernandez | March 7, 2014 9:44 AM EST

REUTERS/JASON REDMOND
Passengers receive assistance at the Qantas Airlines counter after it canceled 447 flights affecting more than 68,000 passengers from Los Angeles International Airport in California, on October 29, 2011. The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and the Orlando International (MCO) will be the nation's busiest airports during the Thanksgiving season.

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YouTube/TWU Australia

Just a week after Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce confirmed it would slash 5,000 jobs over three years to cut costs by $2 billion, the embattled flag carrier started to yield its axe with 90 full-time check-in staff at the Sydney international airport its likely first victims.

Qantas began to issue invitations to the counter staff at Sydney airport for expressions of interests in accepting voluntary redundancy for 90 personnel. The airline will start to accept the proposals on Monday.

That would be about half of the current members of the Australian Services Union. Thirty of the affected workers would be converted to part-time roles.

Sally McManus, New South Wales branch secretary of ASU, said the job cuts would likely result in longer queues at check-in counters and the self check-in system extended at all Aussie international airports, except those in Hobart and Canberra.

But a Qantas spokeswoman belied the warning, saying that staff would be realigned towards peak periods.

Analysts said the Qantas move would be consistent with the global trend for travelers to check-in online or print their boarding passes at airport kiosks. Qantas has self check-in kiosks for domestic flights as well as bag-drop facilities.

YouTube/Qantas

Pacific Aviation Consulting Managing Director Oliver Lamb pointed out that because many passengers don't like to wait in line for long at airports, they are happy to adopt the quicker options such as the self check-in.

Qantas, though, may be regaining back some of its customers from rival Virgin Australia. Pocketbook, a budget planning site, reported that Qantas share of total airline customer spending in February 2014 went up to 35 per cent from 32 per cent in September 2013, while Virgin's share declined to 16 per cent from 23 per cent over the same period.

Bosco Tan, co-founder of Pocketbook, shared his theory that while consumer behaviour is difficult to change, "the recent negative publicity around Qantas might have provided the marketing boost they needed to rally the Australian public."

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(Photo: REUTERS/JASON REDMOND / )
Passengers receive assistance at the Qantas Airlines counter after it canceled 447 flights affecting more than 68,000 passengers from Los Angeles International Airport in California, on October 29, 2011. The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and the Orlando International (MCO) will be the nation's busiest airports during the Thanksgiving season.
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