Second Qantas 737 Damaged By Luggage Vehicle

Just two days ago, a belt loader vehicle collided with a Qantas 737 at Perth Airport. An incident bearing a striking resemblance to Wednesday’s events took place again today in Darwin, with another Qantas 737 being damaged by a belt loader. Australia’s Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) is calling for an investigation into the matter.

Second Qantas 737 Damaged By Luggage Vehicle
Friday’s incident took place at Darwin Airport. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons 

737 damaged at Darwin Airport

Just like Wednesday’s collision, today’s incident involved a vehicle used to load baggage into the belly hold of aircraft, known as a belt loader.

Video footage embedded below shows the belt loader wedged under the aircraft. In a public statement, the TWU reports that passengers were onboard the plane when the collision happened. Media reported that the collision had also caused the plane to shake.

Taking place at Darwin Airport, the Boeing 737-800 registered VH-VZH was set to operate Qantas flight QF851 to Perth. On this day, the flight was supposed to depart at 11:45. However, the incident resulted in a significant delay of eight hours, with the incident aircraft continuing on to operate the service.

Speaking with Australian outlet 7News, a Qantas spokesperson says that the airline will investigate the cause of the incident, adding that the aircraft will undergo maintenance to repair the damage.

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Two incidents within three days

While we might report on an incident of this nature on its own, the more interesting aspect of the story is that it is the second collision with a belt loader in less than a week.

On Wednesday, Qantas’ 737 in retrojet livery was left with a large gash at Perth Airport- the result of a collision with a belt loader whose brakes had failed. During this incident, a worker was reported narrowly escaping serious injury.

Outsourced workers under scrutiny

While there have been no official findings released, the TWU is raising the issue of outsourced ground workers as a relevant factor in these two incidents. The union says that Qantas outsourced all of its 2,500 ground workers this year in order to pay lower wages for baggage, ramp, and cleaning work.

“Since then safety and service issues have arisen, including pilots given dangerous and incorrect baggage weight information, understaffing of ground operations with teams halved, the use of old equipment around aircraft and problems including excessive delays with baggage at airports. A child’s electric wheelchair was smashed at Sydney Airport after it was incorrectly placed on a baggage belt.” -Transport Workers Union

The TWU notes that it has written to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, and WorkSafe Western Australia calling for investigations.

A Federal Court ruling is pending on the outsourcing of Qantas ground workers. The outsourcing took the place of Qantas workers at 10 airports, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Alice Springs, and Canberra. The TWU notes that Darwin Qantas workers were “among the last to be pushed out, with some doing their final shifts in April.”

Do you think the outsourcing of jobs is a factor behind any of Qantas’ recent incidents? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.