Aussie travellers looking forward to summer holidays could expect delays at airports across the country after aviation firefighters voted to strike, potentially sending airports into chaos.
The vote could mean airports experience further disruption with the essential workers shutting down between a two and 12-hour period. It's the first time in history the United Firefighters Union (UFU) aviation branch has voted for such action with 93 per cent of workers backing the move.
This year already Australian airports have experienced major disruptions for various reasons including understaffing and an increase in travellers after the Covid-19 pandemic. Under international civil aviation laws, international airlines cannot land at airports without a fire and rescue team in place, so the move would cause airlines to cancel services over the busy holiday period.
When will the airport strike hit?
It's not yet known when the strike will occur, but the public would be given seven days’ notice, UFU secretary Wes Garrett said. He also confirmed the union would meet next week to decide on the strike timings.
The strike is over a staffing dispute as well as pay rates and has the potential to send airports into chaos. The UFU is thought to be seeking a 15.5 per cent pay rise over three years plus a commitment to hiring more staff. However, Airservices Australia, the government-owned organisation responsible for airport rescue and firefighting, is only offering an increase of 11.5 per cent.
"At every major and regional airport across Australia we do not have enough aviation firefighters to provide the protection for air travellers that’s required by international aviation regulation," Mr Garrett said
What should Aussies do to help avoid delays?
The cost of travel has skyrocketed since it restarted following the Covid-19 pandemic, and despite the cost of living crisis, recent research from Intrepid Travel shows that 79 per cent of Aussies are planning a trip in the next year.
Tourism expert Dr David Beirman from University of Technology Sydney says prices will skyrocket ahead of Christmas and will remain "10-20% higher than pre-Covid" into next year. But Managing Director ANZ at Intrepid Travel, Brett Mitchell, told Yahoo News Australia there are some ways to plan ahead to avoid disruption and save on travel too.
"Booking data from across the travel industry shows that there is currently huge demand for flights, hotels, rental homes and everything in between — a huge uplift since last year," he said. "It’s important that you monitor your flight before your departure and ensure you arrive at the airport early. With extra checks in place and different requirements for each country, the check in process is taking between four to eight minutes per person longer than before."
Mr Mitchell encouraged Aussies to "push ahead" with travel plans over Christmas. "We understand that travellers have some hesitations around travelling right now, but if you’re wondering whether to book a holiday – I’d say go for it. After the last two years we all deserve a break and to be with friends and family at Christmas," he said.
If you are looking for ways to save money, Mr Mitchell suggested looking into off-peak times.
"You can get great deals when booking during off-peak periods. This includes both domestic and international travel, and applies across tours, flights, accommodation and more," he said. "If you’re concerned about potential delays and long airport lines, booking a trip in the off-season or booking a domestic trip and exploring your own backyard can alleviate some of the stress."
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