Turmoil at Southern Australia

Australian BAe 146 operator Southern Australia has been thrown in turmoil by a proposed re-organization of Qantas’ regional subsidiaries, which operate as QantasLink. For some time, Qantas has been thinking of consolidating its five regional airlines into two, one operating jets and one operating turboprops. Most of them operate either jets or turboprops, so the move would mean merging with the others. But for Southern, with its mixture of BAe 146s and Dash 8s, the problem is more complicated. This week, Qantas announced Southern’s Dash 8s would soon be transferred to sister airline Eastern. The 146s would remain until the end of the year, when they would be transferred to National Jet Systems. The announcement came as a major surprise to Southern, who has been consistently profitable and has recently been operating an expanded four-jet schedule, supplementing its own three 146s with an additional example leased from NJS. It caused a major uproar among Southern’s staff, most of whom would have no guarantee of employment under the new structure. Only recently, Southern’s 146 crews had had to relocate, on short notice, from Tasmania to Canberra when Qantas replaced the 146s with Impulse’s 717s on the trans-Tasman runs. Now they face another relocation, at best, or the loss of their jobs, at worst. The uproar resulted in the planned re-organization being put on hold, but few doubt that its basic thrust will ultimately be followed. In other news, Qantas has indicated it will announce its choice for a new regional jet by year’s end. The Avro RJX had been a prime contender, but its cancellation has left the field to the Embraer 170 and the Fairchild Dornier 728.

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