Qantas rallies 20,000 stood-down staff in border battle
Qantas has stepped up its borders campaign, urging 20,000 of its stood-down staff to sign a petition calling on the states and territories to re-open and agree on a common definition of a COVID-19 "hotspot."
The airline's 10,000 suppliers have also been enlisted in the campaign.
Qantas has also written directly to state and federal MPs to make the case for a common, medically based framework for reopening.
In the letter, Qantas says COVID-19 and the associated Queensland border restrictions have contributed to an 82 per cent drop in the domestic tourism spend and noted "significant pent up demand from customers who wish to visit family and friends or holiday in Queensland."
"Now is the time for Australians to visit Australia," the airline says.
"Arbitrary border restrictions are having a profound economic and social cost to communities, businesses, supply chains and jobs in Queensland."
Qantas has been among those hardest hit by state border closures which have all but halted interstate flights and left thousands of stood down workers in limbo.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce in August said it was difficult to understand why states with no or low levels of COVID infection were closed to other states with similarly low levels.
"We have a situation where there are large numbers of states and territories that have had zero cases and they're not even open to each other," Mr Joyce said. "We need to have the framework for what will allow them to open to give certainty to the tourism industry, to our Company, to our employees and eventually at some stage, we know that we have to start that tourism industry again, the economy is depending on it."
It's expected other parts of the travel industry including airports and travel agents will join the campaign called "safely open our borders".
Andrew Parker, Qantas Group Executive, used his letter to argue that while he acknowledges the role that border restrictions have played in containing the virus, domestic border restrictions continue to have a "devastating impact on Queensland's tourism sector and the local jobs and livelihoods that depend on it."
He pointed out that domestic tourism contributed nearly $19bn to the Queensland economy in 2019, and employed more than 235,000 people.
"The Qantas Group alone operated nearly 100,000 flights and flew over 10 million passengers to Queensland each year," Mr Parker said.
"This year however, COVID-19 and the associated Queensland border restrictions have contributed to an 82 per cent drop in domestic tourism spend compared to the same period last year, placing profound stress on the industry which was hit first by the pandemic and will likely be the last to recover."
Mr Parker said the airline and its staff were calling for a nationally consistent framework that was balanced and proportionate, "with defined thresholds informed by medical advice for the safe reopening of internal borders."
"We ask that all States and Territories work with the Commonwealth and other States and Territories to develop a harmonised approach to border management with agreed timelines to provide greater certainty for businesses and all Australians," he wrote.
"I ask that you closely consider these implications for the welfare and economic wellbeing of your community and join the call for a rational, harmonised approach to border management guided by the best medical advice," he said.
Originally published as Qantas rallies 20,000 stood-down staff in border battle