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Qantas flight cancellations spiral, airline struggles to cope with rebound

Qantas Airways Ltd. cancelled one in 12 flights in Australia last month, even more than in May, increasing the pressure on Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce as the airline struggles to cope with a demand rebound.

Australia’s national airline scrapped 8.1% of scheduled domestic services in June, making it the country’s least reliable carrier, according to a government report released Thursday. Virgin Australia pulled 5.8% of its services.

The figures do little to lighten the burden on Joyce, who has become a lightening rod for social media vitriol from unimpressed passengers. Critics accuse Joyce of cutting too many jobs during the pandemic and leaving the carrier unable to function properly now that travel is picking up. His harbour-side home in Sydney was this month pelted with eggs and toilet paper, according to local media.

The national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, Dave Noonan — whose early morning Melbourne-Canberra Qantas flight was delayed — tweeted Wednesday that Joyce has entered the lexicon as a byword for travel chaos.

In a statement, Qantas said June’s delays and cancellations weren’t good enough. “They are not at the level that our customers expect,” it said. “We’re already seeing improvements and things will continue to get better month-on-month.”

The world’s depleted aviation industry is struggling to cope with a faster-than-expected surge in traffic, leaving passengers held up in check-in or security queues, or sleeping in foreign airports. Airlines are also being hit with Covid-related staff absences and elevated fuel costs.

Thursday’s report described the performance of Australian airlines in June as the worst since recording began in 2003. Qantas is being singled out by many frustrated travellers because it’s Australia’s dominant — and often the most expensive — carrier.

Even Jetstar, the Qantas-owned low-cost carrier with a colourful reputation for punctuality, performed better than its parent in June. It cancelled 5.5% of its services, a small improvement from May.

Little more than half of Qantas’ domestic services were on time in June. Only 58.4% of the airline’s flights left on time and 59.1% arrived on time, a poorer performance than in May and worse than rival Virgin.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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