September 18, 2013
It appears that the Qantas heavy maintenance facility at Avalon Airport—near Melbourne—could be the next casualty of the airline’s efforts to streamline its maintenance operations in Australia.
The carrier has announced that it will “undertake a review of the future” of Avalon, due to the diminishing amount of work required on Boeing 747-400s. The long-term prospects for Avalon do not appear bright—the airline announced last year it would consolidate its Australia-based heavy maintenance at Avalon and Brisbane, while also signaling its intention to eventually cut back to one such base.
New investment in Qantas’s Brisbane facility suggests that location is more likely to remain in service.
The signs have not been good for Avalon since Qantas cut 263 jobs there in November, after having closed its Tullamarine heavy maintenance base at Melbourne Airport last year. Qantas currently has 59 employees and 253 contractors at Avalon.
In a statement, Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi says the Avalon operation is becoming “sub-scale and inefficient” because of the gradual retirement of the 747s that are serviced at the facility.
Over the next few years there will be periods of up to three months at a time when there will be no maintenance work done at Avalon, says Strambi. There will be no scheduled work for the equivalent of five months each year for the four years starting in March 2014.
Qantas management will hold meetings with employees and unions to “discuss the challenges and look at potential options” for Avalon, says Strambi. These talks will conclude by October, and the airline will “make a decision sometime after that.” But unions are already pessimistic about the nature of that decision.
Qantas had 36 747s in its fleet in 2004, but this number is now down to 15, and there will be 10 747s in operation within three years. The carrier conducts heavy maintenance on its Boeing 737s and 767s and Airbus A330s at its Brisbane facility, and has spent A$30 million ($28 million) this year to upgrade its Brisbane base.
The airline outsources heavy maintenance for its Airbus A380s. The C checks for the aircraft have been performed by Lufthansa Technik, which also has conducted cabin reconfiguration work on A380s for Qantas. An airline spokeswoman notes that the carrier “only has a small number of A380s, so it is not economical or productive to do heavy maintenance on them in Australia.”