....Grounded Aviation Workers

Press/Media: Expert Comment


Flight attendant shares story of city’s grounded aviation workers

When Qantas grounded thousands of workers, Lancefield resident Joel was among them. Now he’s looking for a new role, but said most have already been nabbed by other casuals left in the lurch. Joel Al Forte has been working as a flight attendant for 14 years and loves his job. But when rumours were heard that thousands may be laid off, he didn't want to believe it. The 40-year-old Qantas employee  found out he was being stood down late last week when the company held a remote town hall meeting to discuss how they would survive the crisis.

Mr Al Forte said he understood that the best way to stop the virus spreading was by limiting international travel. But did not think domestic travel would be restricted so quickly. “We all need to face the reality that there’s no more passengers,” he said. “Last week we had 68 passengers and the next flight I had was about four in business and 14 in economy – the international airport is like a ghost town, there is no one.”

Monash University Professor and co-author of Up in the Air, Greg Bamber said the airline industry had a history of ups and downs. He said similar lessons could be learned from flights grounded in the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Without government help there is no doubt many airlines would go into bankruptcy in the current crisis,” he said.

“Ansett, then Qantas’ largest competitor went bankrupt in the days following 9/11. “Governments around the world are trying to help airlines, they want there to be a civil aviation industry left. “There are some opportunities in these difficult and uncertain times, most staff are trying to stick around and wait for the industry to bounce back, but we don’t know when that will be.”

The Qantas Group have made drastic changes following new government restrictions with at least 90 per cent of flights cancelled. The impact on staff has been devastating to the workforce of 30,000 people. With states enforcing lockdown procedures, further cuts are expected to be made to domestic and international flying schedules.

On Monday, (23 march) Mr Al Forte spent hours attempting to touch base with Centrelink to best understand job seeker eligibility and find a new employer. He said that with Centrelink phones dropping out and the website crashing, it was unsafe to have hundreds of people lined up and waiting inside the offices as it would only help the virus spread. Mr Fotre said although large food providers like Coles have advertised casual jobs to fill industry demand, it was tough finding work as all local shops in Sunbury and surrounds were already fully staffed. 


Qantas is sending grounded planes to Avalon airport to park them until the coronavirus shutdowns end. Picture: Mark Wilson


The line of Australians needing assistance at a Melbourne Centrelink office was hundreds long. Picture

Period24 Mar 2020

Media coverage


Media coverage


  • airline industry
  • Qantas
  • flight attendants
  • Centrelink
  • Coles
  • job seekers
  • casual workers