Qantas asks executives to work as baggage handlers for three months

Australian airline Qantas has asked senior executives to work as baggage handlers for three months as it tries to tackle an acute labour shortage.

The firm’s head of operations is looking for at least 100 volunteers to work at Sydney and Melbourne airports.

Tasks include loading and unloading bags as well as driving vehicles to move luggage around airports.

Like much of the global airline industry, Qantas is struggling to resume its services as borders reopen.

“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 shared with the BBC by the company.

“There is no expectation that you will opt into this role on top of your full-time position,” Mr Hughes added.

The managers and executives were asked to work in the baggage handling roles for three or five days a week, in shifts of either four or six hours a day per shift.

The note went on to say that applicants need to be able to move suitcases weighing as much as 32kg each.

“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 stops to improve our performance,” a Qantas spokesperson told the BBC.

“As we have done in the past during busy periods, around 200 head office staff have helped at airports during peak travel periods since Easter.”

Qantas was among airlines hit hard by the pandemic as countries closed their borders, grounding planes.

The industry laid off thousands of staff during the pandemic, many of which were ground staff.

As measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 have eased around the world, Qantas and other major airlines have struggled to resume services at the scale seen before the pandemic.