Qantas Faces Accusations Of Underpaying Pilots

A former Qantas long-haul 747 captain is suing the airline, alleging he was shortchanged over US$68,000 after losing his job last year. The pilot, Andrew Hewitt, began action in the Federal Court of Australia last week.

A former Qantas 747 pilot is taking the airline to court, alleging he was shortchanged on his redundancy payout. Photo: Getty Images

Former pilot says Qantas owes him annual leave and long service leave entitlements

According to a report in The Australian on Monday, Captain Hewitt alleges he is owed around US$33,500 in annual leave entitlements and approximately US$34,700 in untaken long service leave entitlements.

Adding a certain frisson to the case is Andrew Hewitt’s ties with Qantas. He’d worked for Qantas for 40 years and was reportedly fourth on the airline’s pilot seniority list when Qantas made the retirement offer last year. His father, Sir Lenox Hewitt, was Qantas Chairman between 1975 and 1980.

This is the second legal case Captain Hewitt has lodged against Qantas after losing his job last year.  Captain Hewitt was one of 55 career pilots aged 63 and above offered the early retirement package last year. At the time, Andrew Hewitt was 63. Qantas said it was unlikely to return to normal long-haul flying before Captain Hewitt turned 65, after which he would no longer be allowed to pilot international flights owing to the so-called “Rule of 65.”

Captain Hewitt worked for Qantas for 40 years, including as a 747 Captain. Photo: Qantas

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Differences in payout amounts

Aside from the understandable chagrin at losing his job, Captain Hewitt objected to younger pilots made redundant getting a bigger payout. His payout package offered four months’ pay, whereas younger pilots were offered 12 months’ pay.

In total, pilots aged under 63 were offered redundancy packages worth three times more than pilots aged 63 years and over who were offered early retirement packages.

Captain Hewitt refused his early retirement offer. Alledging age discrimination, he and Qantas were due to duke it out in the Federal Court of New South Wales, but both parties settled the matter several months ago.

Papers filed in the Federal Court last week confirmed Captain Hewitt lost his longstanding job with Qantas on July 5, 2021. After a long association, there’s not much love left these days between the Hewitts and Qantas.

Former Qantas Chairman Sir Lennox Hewitt helping load paintings onto a Qantas plane. Photo: Getty Images

Potential consequences for other former Qantas pilots

Captain Hewitt is now objecting to Qantas calculating his annual leave and long service leave entitlements based on the minimum number of hours he flew, rather than the actual number of hours he flew.

According to The Australian, Captain Hewitt claims he consistently worked more than the 160-hour minimum for each 56-day bid period.

The former Qantas pilot claims Qantas has shortchanged him on his accrued annual leave and long service entitlements. He states he is owed approximately US$68,200 plus a pecuniary penalty.

Aside from Captain Hewitt’s backstory, this new legal challenge captures attention because scores of other pilots took redundancy and early retirement packages and may have been similarly impacted. Qantas says it has met its obligations to Captain Hewitt and will defend the matter. The airline notes all pilots in Captain Hewitt’s age bracket were treated in the same manner.