An industrial dispute prompted the Australian airline Qantas to land all international and domestic flights immediately.
All employees involved in industrial operations will be blocked from Monday night and flights grounded from 06:00 GMT on Saturday.
As for the aircraft that are currently in the air, they will complete their flights, but there will be no additional departures.
Fair Work Australia, the national industrial tribunal, postponed a hearing on the Qantas dispute on Saturday night. The tribunal – which has the power to suspend or terminate industrial operations – is due to convene later on Sunday.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reportedly warned that the dispute could have “consequences” for the national economy.
Qantas has been hit by a series of costly strikes. Luggage handlers, engineers and pilots were involved in the action, which the company said cost $ 15 million ($ 16 million) a week.
Qantas posted a statement on its Facebook page stating that customers booked on Qantas flights should not go to the airport until further notice. Qantas said there would be a full refund for those affected.
Relations between unions and Qantas management began to deteriorate in August after the airline announced plans to restructure and relocate some operations to Asia.
Qantas has a 65% share of the Australian domestic market, but suffers heavy losses from its international flights.
The restructuring of Qantas is expected to mean the loss of 1,000 jobs from the 35,000-strong workforce.
The interruption of Qantas’ flights also affected a meeting of Community heads of state in Perth, with members of 17 delegations reportedly staying in the city over the dispute.
The dispute comes on a busy travel weekend, days before the country’s largest horse race, the Melbourne Cup.
Anthony Albanese, Australia’s transport minister, said the government would take action to intervene in the dispute.
“We are very concerned about Qantas’ actions, which we were only informed about in the middle of the afternoon, without prior notice from Qantas at any stage.” Anthony Albanese said.
“The government has made an urgent request to Fair Work Australia to end all industrial activities in Qantas. This will focus on both the actions of the unions and the management of Qantas. “
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced the airline’s grounding on Saturday: “The airline will be on the ground until it draws a conclusion on this issue.”
Alan Joyce said he would not choose the “easy way out” and would agree to the union’s demands.
“It would destroy Qantas in the long run.
“I’m actually making a bold decision, an amazing decision, a very firm decision to ground this airline.”
Alan Joyce said he made the decision early Saturday and then received approval from the Qantas board.
“We conclude until the unions withdraw their final claims and reach an agreement with us” he said.
“This is the fastest way to ensure that the airline returns to the air.
“They are breaking our strategy and our brand.
“They have to decide how badly they want to hurt Qantas, their members … and the traveling audience.”
The Australian Pilot Association has criticized grounding.
“It simply came to our notice then. He really informed everyone and … forced the government to do that. “ Barry Jackson of the Australian and International Pilots’ Association told Sky News.
“We really need to do this sooner rather than later and get the plane back in the air.”
Qantas said that as of 4 a.m. GMT on Saturday, there were 64 planes in the air – 36 domestic and 28 international – carrying more than 7,000 passengers. A total of 108 aircraft will be grounded at 22 airports around the world.
Qantas also said 13,305 passengers were booked to travel by plane from overseas airports to Australia over the next 24 hours. About 1,310 international passengers may be at international airports, which are now waiting for their flights to depart.