REPORTING FROM SEOUL -- An Australian arbitration court has issued an emergency ruling that will allow Qantas Airways to return to the skies after a bitter labor dispute prompted the airline to ground its entire fleet during the weekend.
A much-relieved Alan Joyce, the company’s chief executive, said the first of the planes would return to service on Monday afternoon, with the rest following by Tuesday.
The court’s ruling ended weeks of strikes and canceled a staff lockout against the world’s 10th-largest airline that caused chaos at Qantas destination airports worldwide, including LAX.
Joyce said the court decision prevented airline workers unions from taking any further strike action in their quest for pay hikes and job security. The strikes have been blamed for a sharp decline in the airline's bookings.
“The important thing is that all industrial action is now over and we have certainty,” he told reporters in Sydney. “We will be returning to business as usual over the next 24 hours.”
In past months, the rolling worker strikes by pilots, aircraft mechanics, baggage handlers and caterers have forced the cancellation of 600 flights, disrupted travel for 70,000 passengers and cost Qantas $75 million.
Officials said all 108 of the company's planes had been grounded Saturday.
The Australian government called an emergency court hearing late Saturday to end the walkout for the sake of the national economy.
-- John M. Glionna
Photo: Alan Joyce, chief executive officer of Qantas Airways, at a news conference in Sydney, Australia, on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Credit: Sergio Dionisio / Bloomberg