Qantas to shut maintenance plant as it retires aging 747 fleet, with about 300 jobs to be lost

SYDNEY – Qantas Airways said Friday that it will close one of its maintenance facilities as it moves toward retiring its aging fleet of Boeing 747s.

The plant near Melbourne will close in March. The Australian airline said it will try to find positions for the nearly 300 full-time staff and contractors affected by the closure, but many will likely be laid off.

The Avalon plant services the airline’s Boeing 747s, which Qantas has been gradually replacing with more modern Airbus A330 and A380 aircraft. Because of that, there’s no longer enough work to keep the plant open, Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi said.

“We cannot keep running a facility that is inefficient now and will become more and more unviable into the future,” Strambi said.

The airline is looking at overseas maintenance facilities to service its remaining 747s.

Steve Purvinas, federal secretary for the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, said moving the maintenance overseas raises safety issues.

“There is no doubt that when Qantas close this facility and send those aircraft offshore, the aircraft will be less safe than what they were yesterday,” Purvinas said.