Worker ‘trapped’ after jet tarmac crash

A baggage vehicle crashed into a Qantas jet when the brakes failed, a union says, claiming the driver was trapped and pointing the finger of blame at outsourcing.

A Qantas plane was left with a hole in it after a baggage vehicle’s brakes failed, sending it crashing into the jet, with the Transport Workers Union claiming the driver was trapped.

The union says the incident occurred in Perth after the plane arrived from Melbourne on Thursday and the damage was extensive.

They say the worker operating the vehicle narrowly escaped injury but was stuck under the plane until it could be moved. Other workers also narrowly escaped injury, the union claims.

A Qantas spokeswoman confirmed a Boeing 737 aircraft sustained damage from a baggage belt loader while on the ground at Perth Airport.

“We are investigating how this occurred and are working with our ground handling provider Menzies on this investigation,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Engineering works to repair the damage are underway.”

The union is now calling for a safety investigation into Qantas’ entire ground operations, which were controversially outsourced when the national carrier slashed costs as travel restrictions caused by the pandemic savaged its bottom line.

The TWU says it is writing to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and WorkSafe WA, claiming incidents at other airports had also raised questions about the outsourcing move.

“The other incidents include pilots being given dangerous and incorrect baggage weight information, understaffing of ground operations with teams halved, the use of old equipment around aircraft and problems including excessive delays with baggage at airports,” the TWU said on Wednesday.

“A child’s electric wheelchair was recently smashed at Sydney Airport after it was incorrectly placed on a baggage belt.”

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine described the Perth incident as a major safety breach that could have been fatal.

“We demand an investigation into what is happening at Qantas given that workers, passengers and safety are being failed so badly,” he said.

“Qantas may have outsourced its ground work but it must take full responsibility for what is happening.

“Workers warned this would happen and the federal government and the Qantas board stood by and allowed it to occur.”

Qantas said the TWU knew “full well” that external ground handlers were no less safe and in some cases provided better safety performance than work done in-house.

“When this work was done in-house, we had 0.8 aircraft damage events per 1000 flights compared to 0.4 for outsourced operations,” the spokeswoman said.

“Comprehensive safety investigations are undertaken after any incident to ensure learnings are captured and processes are updated if required.”

The spokeswoman said all ground handlers were required to abide by Qantas’ safety policies and procedures.

Menzies had provided ground handling services to the group for decades and started providing them to the airline at Perth Airport earlier this year, she added.

Mr Kaine said the government should tie conditions to the hefty public funds it had pumped into the airline since the pandemic hit, ensuring excellent standards and guaranteeing safety as the top priority, not “making Qantas executives and investors richer”.

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