It appears that the 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-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 itsand and 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. The C checks for the aircraft have been performed by , 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.”
Qantas also has options and purchase rights for-9s, although these will not enter the fleet until at least 2016, she notes. The first heavy maintenance for these aircraft would not be due for about 12 years after delivery, and no decision has been made yet on where this work will be done, she says.