Before the airline asked its senior executives to work as baggage handlers in an internal email earlier this month, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was spotted on the tarmac in a high visibility jacket alongside ground staff. A passenger photographed the CEO standing beside a cart on the tarmac. The photo was taken before Qantas requested senior executives work in operations in a letter earlier this month.
According to a Qantas spokesperson, the photo of Joyce is not new and was taken during a general visit to frontline teams, which the CEO regularly does.
Joyce is believed to have been visiting teams on the ground to gather feedback on the airline’s operations rather than working as a baggage handler.
Following the photo, Colin Hughes, the airline’s chief operating officer, sent an email to high-level staff stating that the company was looking for at least 100 managers to work in various airport roles for up to five days a week.
Mr Hughes indicated that there was “no expectation that you will opt into this role on top of your full-time position,” but that it was a necessary action in response to increasing criticism of Qantas’ ability to handle passenger demand.
‘You’ll be an embedded resource within the ground handling partners during your time in the contingency programme,’ Mr Hughes wrote.
‘This means you’ll get a roster, be scheduled to operate and be supervised and managed by our grand handling partners in live operations.’
Executives would sort luggage, scan tags, and even drive luggage tugs on the tarmac as part of the programme.
Under the extraordinary plan, managers would pack planes with people’s belongings and move cargo between flights.
‘It is our singular company focus to support our teams in getting our operation back on track and providing our passengers with the experience they expect from the airline,’ Mr Hughes wrote.
Qantas stated that the ‘contingency plan’ was implemented in response to failing to meet customer expectations.
‘We’ve been clear that our operational performance has not been meeting our customers’ expectations or the standards that we expect of ourselves – and that we’ve been pulling out all the stops to improve our performance,’ said a spokeswoman for the company.
‘As we have done in the past during peak travel periods, around 200 head office staff have assisted at airports since Easter.