Unscheduled Qantas Fuel Stops Raise Questions

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Qantas says an unscheduled fuel stop on a Pacific island during its new route from Dallas to Brisbane on Monday was due to stronger-than-expected headwinds, but the pilots union has recently accused the airline of pressuring crews to carry minimum fuel to cut costs. The Boeing 747-400ER, flying one of the longest routes in the world at almost 8,600 miles, diverted to Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. "We're a few weeks into the new route and we'll keep monitoring it," Qantas spokesman Thomas Woodward told the Sydney Morning Herald. "If it becomes an ongoing issue, we'll obviously look at ways of addressing it." A Qantas A380 en route to Melbourne from Singapore also made an unscheduled fuel stop earlier in May, citing headwinds. Meanwhile, deteriorating relations between the company and the pilots union threaten the survival of the airline, according to CEO Alan Joyce.

Last week, the pilots union gained approval for long-haul pilots to take "industrial action" against the company, for the first time in 45 years. Richard Woodward, spokesman for the Australian & International Pilots Association, told The Australian the union is contemplating several actions it could take, including work stoppages of up to two days. "Our preference, of course, has always been to negotiate," he said. Barry Jackson, president of the union, said the dispute is not about pay. "It is about fighting Mr. Joyce's offshoring agenda and keeping Qantas pilots operating Qantas flights," he said. Joyce wants to move Qantas operations to Southeast Asia, Jackson says. "He wants pilots and crew employed on Asian conditions and working to Asian standards." Joyce has blamed "rogue union leaders" for the dispute, and told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. the union's move to take action "is an attempt at further damaging the brand."