Qantas and its pilots appeared to be as far apart as Sydney and London on a deal to fly the aircraft that would operate nonstop between those two cities.
On Friday Qantas selected the Airbus A350 to operate between Australia’s East coast cities to London and New York nonstop but needs a pilot agreement for longer duty time.
The A350, which would also operate the Perth to London route and potentially Los Angeles to Perth, is a key part of Qantas’ international strategy, giving it an almost unique advantage over other airlines and enabling it to charge higher fares for those who want to avoid a stop at a big hub airport.
AirlineRatings.com has obtained a confidential pilot memo to its members updating them on negotiations and there are major obstacles.
The Australian International Pilots Association Long Haul EA team memo says that Qantas has developed and has begun to circulate a package which they indicate meets their business case but while “the package itself contained several topics being actively considered by AIPA, it contained numerous items that we have said we cannot agree to.”
The memo says “some of these we firmly believe would be completely unacceptable to pilots” and it has advised the Company that those particular items cannot be agreed to.
“For example, the proposed B-scale for new hire second officers is something we cannot accept, both in terms of the effect it would have on current and future pilots and the precedent it may create for negotiations down the track.”
A B-Scale pilot is paid at a lower rate.
Cathay Pacific Airways tried this in the early 1990s but later abandoned the concept.
However, on a positive note, the AIPA says it is receptive to what is called Multi-Variant Flying (MVF) in any new agreement, whereby pilots can fly several different types within a family.
The A350 selected by Qantas is greatly improved version of the A330 which the airline operates.
The AIPA said, “we consider that MVF could be acceptable (within a broader package) as this is consistent with the changing global aviation scene.”
If the pilot union will not agree a deal, Qantas has the option of putting the deal directly to the pilots.
According to insiders, the AIPA Committee of Management which negotiates the deal was recently taken over by a group of pilots who do not want to give away concessions made for the Boeing 787 which operates the nonstop Perth to London route.