Words striking fear into the heart of Australian tourism – “pilots’ strike”


With Qantas pilots planning industrial action in their bid for better pay and conditions, bad memories of the disastrous domestic pilots’ strike in 1989 are flooding back for the local industry.

The Australian Electoral Commission is conducting a formal ballot of members of the Australian and International Pilots Association, which represents about 2500 Qantas Group pilots, to decide the next course of action.

The local industry now faces a nervous wait of up to 28 days while the ballot is conducted.

A full-scale strike was considered to be at the extreme end of the pilots’ industrial action plans, but an AIPA spokesman yesterday confirmed it was one of the options on the agenda.

“It is with sadness that we have reached this point,” an APIA spokesperson said.

“For over 90 years, Qantas pilots on Australian conditions have delivered a culture of safety and excellence to Qantas passengers. All that is now at risk.”

Regardless of the final action taken, some delays, disruptions and cancellations to Qantas services are expected.

The 1989 pilots’ strike, waged by pilots from Ansett, Australian Airlines and others, crippled the Far North’s economy.

It was estimated to have cost the local industry about $1 million a day, and up to $4 billion nationally.

Daintree Tea House Restaurant co-owner Richard Seivers said the 1989 strike almost sent his business broke.

“We lost a lot of money during the strike and I don’t think we’ve ever made it back up,” he said.

“We’ve got terrible memories of the strike and we’re in enough strife already without any more disasters like this happening.”

Cairns economist Bill Cummings remembers having to fly on an RAAF cargo plane during the pilots’ strike in 1989.

“The 1989 strike virtually happened overnight and it was just devastating, particularly because it was then followed by the recession we had to have,” he said.

“The whole tourism industry was just cut off overnight andit took months to restore the situation.

“In this current situation with Qantas pilots, we should be better placed because we’ve got Jetstar and Virgin still flying.

“But any industrial action by Qantas will have a negative impact here.”