Qantas resumes flights grounded by labor dispute

Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:50am EDT
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By Sonali Paul and Narayanan Somasundaram

MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's Qantas Airways returned to the air on Monday after grounding its entire global fleet over the weekend in a bold tactic to force the government to intervene in the nation's worst labor dispute in a decade.

Qantas took the drastic step to ground all flights on Saturday, disrupting 70,000 passengers and spurring the government and its labor-market regulator to seek a quick end to hostilities between the airline and unions.

At the government's instigation, Australia's labor tribunal ordered Qantas to resume flights and banned trade unions, which have waged a damaging campaign of industrial action, from staging more strikes while negotiations continued.

"That was the only way we could bring that to a head," a bleary-eyed Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told reporters after 36 hours of round-the-clock brinkmanship.

Later, after being given the all-clear from aviation regulators, Qantas resumed flights from Sydney with an Airbus A330 bound for Jakarta.

Around the country and overseas, airport departure lounges filled up with Qantas passengers keen to resume their journeys after a frustrating weekend of waiting.

German backpacker Stephanie Giertz, 28, said a Qantas flight cancellation meant she had missed the start of a tour to Australia's iconic Uluru, or Ayers Rock.

"I just hope to arrive in time for sunrise at Ayers Rock, this is my biggest dream," she said at Sydney airport. "I have felt lost... I have had enough."   Continued...

<p>A girl points to a Qantas airplane on the tarmac of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila October 31, 2011. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo</p>