Qantas Airways, Australia’s largest airline, is turning to its executive staff to help with baggage handling delays.
According to Fortune, the airline sent a memo to staff seeking at least 100 managers and senior staff members interested in volunteering. The company asked for help over the next three months to reduce their ground baggage delays.
Executive employees will fill various positions, such as loading and unloading baggage from aircraft, driving baggage tug vehicles on the airfield and sorting or scanning bags. Approximately 200 staff members have already volunteered during busy periods since April.
A spokesperson from Qantas told Fortune that the airline is pulling out all the stops to improve operational performance.
“The high levels of winter flu and a Covid spike across the community, coupled with the ongoing tight labour market, make resourcing a challenge across our industry,” Qantas’ chief operating officer, Colin Hughes, said in an email to the BBC. “There is no expectation that you will opt into this role on top of your full-time position.”
Last month, The Guardian reported that Qantas had lost or failed to load a daily average of 10% of luggage on domestic flights at the Sydney airport. The publication also revealed that one of the primary companies Qantas outsourced for baggage handling services had to contract with two separate firms to find workers.
In 2020, Qantas decided to outsource approximately 1,700 jobs, claiming it was a necessary financial measure. However, the Transport Workers Union sued the airline in federal court, arguing that it targeted the employees based on their union membership. Although the court found the decision unlawful, Qantas is challenging the finding in the high court.
Since that time, the company has experienced a shortage of baggage handlers. Workers have reportedly claimed they are overworked, inadequately paid and unable to handle the boost in baggage caused by increased travel.
Qantas is not the only airline coping with labor shortages. JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said the airline is over-hiring staff to keep up with workers leaving the industry.
A recent survey of airport and airline industry workers found that more than 41% are considering leaving their positions due to stress and insufficient pay.