Qantas Airways will likely outsource heavy maintenance on its remaining Boeing 747s after it announced that it will close its Avalon facility in March 2014.
The announcement follows consultations with its engineers and its engineers' union, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA).
Qantas Domestic chief executive Lyell Strambi says that the reduction in size of its 747 fleet, which will fall to 10 aircraft by 2016, means that there is not enough work to keep the facility viable.
“Over the next four years there would have been up to 22 months with no scheduled maintenance at Avalon. No business could afford to continue operating a facility under those circumstances,” he adds.
ALAEA had offered a number of concessions, including a proposal for engineers to take unpaid leave to keep the facility open, but these were rejected by the airline.
Qantas says it will offer redeployment and redundancy options for its 53 staff at Avalon. The closure will also affect 246 contractors and Qantas will suffer a charge of A$28 million ($26.5 million) in its fiscal year 2014 results.
Over the past year, the airline has indicated that it would consolidate all of its heavy maintenance work at its Brisbane facility, which resulted in the closure of its Boeing 737 heavy maintenance operations at Melbourne Tullamarine airport in May 2012.
The airline will now examine options for heavy maintenance on its remaining 747 fleet, including the possibility of moving it to Brisbane.
ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas tells Flightglobal Pro, however, that that the Brisbane facility does not have enough staff to handle 747 maintenance, and expects that the airline will use this reason to justify sending the work offshore.
In the past, Qantas has outsourced some maintenance work to SIA Engineering and Lufthansa Technik Philippines, both of which are expected to be in contention for the 747 work. It also says that it will examine other facilities in the UK, US and Hong Kong.
Strambi says that the airline is still committed to maintaining the majority of its fleet in Australia.
“We have invested $30 million this year to upgrade our maintenance facilities in Brisbane and we will continue to do heavy maintenance on more than 110 aircraft in this facility, including our fleet of 737s, Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s,” he says.