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Crisis in the skies: when will Australia’s aviation industry get back to normal?

Natasha May – Saturday

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For their first overseas trip since the pandemic, Lianne and Grant Francis planned to be in Bali on their 23rd wedding anniversary – but instead spent their special day in transit after Jetstar cancelled their original flight.

Photograph: Con Chronis/AAP© Provided by The Guardian

Lianne says among those waiting four hours at the gate, only for the outbound flight to be cancelled, was a woman with her husband – who uses a wheelchair and lives with dementia – for what would be their last trip together. There were also kids in tears waiting to board , while others forked out thousands of dollars booking alternative flights with other airlines.

The Francises were not alone in Bali, with more than 4,000 travellers affected by multiple Jetstar flight cancellations since the beginning of the month. But Jetstar’s woes this past fortnight were just the latest chapter in the story of an aviation industry in crisis.

A damning report from the consumer watchdog has criticised airlines for high domestic air fares. Ground handlers in Qantas’ supply chain have threatened strike action. And the ABC’s Four Corner’s program has brought into stark relief the decline in the national carrier’s reputation for reliability.

Fares flying high

Domestic air fares have shot up 56% in the past four months due to high cost of jet fuels and upward pressure from decisions to cut capacity, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s latest Airline Competition in Australia report.

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Travellers queuing to check baggage at Sydney Domestic Terminal in early July, one of several incidents airlines blamed on staff shortages. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

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