AviationShort of staff? No problem, senior execs at airlines and hotels are stepping in as baggage handlers and cooks.

Hands up! Qantas seeks volunteers for baggage handling

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Qantas is asking the management to swap the executive floor for the tarmac.
Qantas is asking the management to swap the executive floor for the tarmac. Photo Credit: GettyImages/Svitlana Hulko

If you happen to land at Sydney Airport in the next few months, keep an eye out for the baggage handlers on the tarmac.

Could that worker in the hi-vis gear and red cap be the Qantas boss, Alan Joyce, earning his massive salary by hauling bags off aircraft?

Qantas has been struggling to cope with baggage handling, flight delays and cancellations but the CEO’s idea of sending his high-profile executives downstairs to help unload planes has been received as poorly as one of the airline’s announcements that yet another service has been cancelled.

It was left to Qantas COO Colin Hughes to tell staff in an internal memo they are seeking expressions of interest for a contingency programme over a three-month period in which 100 senior managers will be trained to handle luggage.

Executives opting for the role must be "physically capable of moving and lifting bags of up to 32kg in weight", Hughes said.

That, in itself, could make for an interesting exercise.

The Qantas union, which looks after transport workers, has been vocal in condemning the move, claiming senior executives do not have the experience to ensure safety on the ground.

Despite the criticism, the Qantas answer to combat staff shortages is resonating across the travel sector. Just this week, Wyndham executives donned chef’s aprons and prepared meals for guests at Wyndham Surfers Paradise in Queensland.

Barry Robinson, president and managing director, international operations Wyndham Destinations (left), and Bruce Harkness, senior vice president, HR, brand communications and customer experience, get to work in the kitchen.
Barry Robinson, president and managing director, international operations Wyndham Destinations (left), and Bruce Harkness, senior vice president, HR, brand communications and customer experience, get to work in the kitchen.

Barry Robinson, president and managing director, international operations Wyndham Destinations, and Bruce Harkness, senior vice president, HR, brand communications and customer experience, helped out in the hotel’s kitchen.

“Following a quiet two years for the hospitality industry due to lockdowns and other Covid-19 travel restrictions, we have unfortunately seen many professionals walk away to try something new.

“The staff shortage is being compounded by people wanting to travel after years of staying put,” said Robinson.

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