Throughout the last 30 years of aviation history, Australia has undergone plentiful change to mould the Australian Airlines into what they are today. Three of the biggest influences on Australian history involve the Pilots Dispute of 1989, collapse of Ansett of late 2001 and the introduction of Virgin Blue - the first low cost carrier. This essay will focus on these three topics and how they have affected and changed the direction of aviation in Australia.
The pilots dispute of 1989 was one of the largest and most expensive industrial disputes in Australian history (Paterson, 2008). It separated pilots all over Australia and the dispute is still ongoing today. The dispute occurred when the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) began an industrial campaign to collect a 29.47% pay claim, as well as make themselves (the pilots) only available from Monday to Friday, 9-5, within the normal working week. When Sir Peter Abeles, the Managing Director of Ansett Airlines heard this news, he teamed up with Mr Bob Hawke, the Australian Prime Minister at the time and declared ‘war’ on the Pilots. Abeles replied to this campaign with brute force. He, with the power of Hawke changed the Individual Employment Contracts to virtually take all Pilots rights and employee protections. In just over a week Abeles and his partners forced the pilots into a irreversible industrial position (Paterson, 2008), hence the reason why 80% of pilots never resumed work and thus the dispute is not settled to this day. This dispute had a significant affect on Ansett, causing it to focus a large portion of its concentration on re-hiring pilots; instead of other important aspects of the airline.
The collapse of Ansett was horrible news; the longest running airliner (68 years) and the second largest in Australian history. The effect was felt worldwide and set the system into a spiral of significant changes in Australia and Internationally (CAPA, 2011). After the pilots dispute of 1989, Ansett was left with insufficient pilots to continue routine flights. Following this, Ansett's attention was turned to finding and training new pilots. However, this took away from other important parts of the airline, one of those being maintenance. Just before Christmas in 2000, 10 Boeing 767’s were grounded because of hairline fractures found in the airlines tails. Then, just before Easter in 2001, 4 more 767’s were grounded because of more hairline fractures discovered, but this time in the engine mountings. These two incidents caused huge damage to Ansett’s public image (Wilson, 2002: 164). Additionally, when one of Ansetts aircraft flew 8 sectors with an incorrectly stowed; and therefore inoperable emergency exit slide, CASA (the Civil Aviation Safety Authority) was forced to ground the entire fleet of 767’s. This practically put the nail in the coffin for Ansett, even further damaging the airline (Wilson, 2002: 164). After September 11, many Australian public feared returning into the air. Statistics show that from 2000 to 2002, a drop from 11 million to just over 8 million passengers were carried annually in just 2 years (CAPA, 2011). On top of this, Virgin Blue, the first low cost carrier was introduced into Australia, offering the lowest possible airfares.
Virgin Blue - the first successful low cost carrier; the first of its kind in Australia. When Virgin was introduced into Australia, it shook the foundations of Ansett, triggering its spiral to failure. As more and more people started using virgin, less and less started using Ansett; and along with its maintenance and public image problems, it had just about hit rock bottom. However, some say it was for the better (Forsyth, 2003). Ansetts collapse saw the Australian market benefit at large. (CAPA, 2012). Its exit allowed a struggling Virgin Blue to get its feet out of the dirt and to help cope with the rising fuel costs, falling Australian dollar, and the bigger competition…