Qantas has announced it will close its service and sales desks at airports and lounges around the country as passengers increasingly turn online to manage their bookings.
Check-in counters will remain but there will be fewer staff operating lost-baggage counters, which will also have its opening hours reduced.
Qantas says the desk closures will cost 100 jobs — the first of 6,000 redundancies the airline announced earlier this year.
A Qantas spokesperson said the cuts would not affect the check-in desks, just the service and sales desks where customers can buy tickets and extra baggage allowances on domestic flights.
Qantas executive manager Phil Capps said the desk closures had been made in response to more customers moving online to check into their flight and manage their booking.
Since flights resumed after coronavirus lockdowns, the airline reported a 20 per cent rise in customers checking-in online.
“Given that shift, we can’t ignore the efficiencies that come with removing the traditional sales desks, particularly in the current environment,” Mr Capps said.
“While most employees will be redeployed, we expect most or all job losses will be voluntary redundancies.”
A Qantas spokesperson said about 80 per cent of inquiries at its service desks were from customers wanting to change seats or flights.
Mr Capps said there would be no changes to premium service levels.
Qantas’s technological improvements, which are rolling out early next year, will add seat selection, upgrades, buying extra baggage and the ability to cancel check-ins and move flights if there’s a disruption, on the Qantas app, making human-facing service roles redundant.
Next year, sales and service desks will be phased out and some employees will move from behind desks to the check-in area and will have mobile payment devices to process sales.
Another 100 people are expected to be made redundant after the technological improvements are introduced.
The extra 100 redundancies comes after Qantas revealed plans in August to outsource ground handling at major Australian airports, costing 2,500 jobs on top of the 6,000 redundancies announced in June.
The airline reported a $2 billion full-year loss due to COVID-19 travel restrictions
Union says travellers will suffer
The Australian Services Union (ASU) says the redundancies will lead to delays and lost baggage problems with Qantas.
ASU assistant national secretary Emeline Gaske said workers had been getting by on little-to-no pay for months, but had stuck by Qantas.
“Workers feel betrayed — they were asked to stand by the company in tough times and just as there’s a glimmer of hope with borders reopening they’re being thrown out on the street,” she said.
“It’s a nasty Christmas gift from Qantas.”
Ms Gaske said the shift away from face-to-face services towards technology meant travellers would be “forced to do everything themselves online”.
“The kicker is cutting lost baggage services — if your bag is missing there will be no one at the airport dedicated to help,” she said.
“If you’re at the airport and your bag is missing you will have to call a contact centre in Hobart.”
A Qantas spokesperson said no lost baggage desks would be closed and there would be no changes to customer service roles prior to Christmas, with changes to be progressively introduced in the first half of next year.
The spokesperson also said the company’s previous voluntary redundancy program was oversubscribed by about 200 employees and the airline expects most or all extra job losses to be voluntary redundancies.
Qantas’s latest change to services comes as the airline and its subsidiary Jetstar record a spike in demand for travel between NSW and Victoria following the announcement on Wednesday that borders will open between the two states from November 23.
Around 25,000 seats were sold across both airlines in the first 48 hours of the announcement, with almost 17,000 of those between Sydney and Melbourne and the remainder between Melbourne and Ballina, and Melbourne and Newcastle.
One-third of bookings are for flights in the first week of borders opening.