Oz police probe suspected sabotage of Qantas jet

AP News
Posted: Nov 02, 2011 2:28 AM
Oz police probe suspected sabotage of Qantas jet

Australian police are investigating the suspected sabotage of the entertainment system on a Qantas Airways airliner during an ongoing bitter labor dispute between the airline and the aircraft maintenance union, officials said Wednesday.

Engineers noticed several wires were cut on the in-flight entertainment system of a Qantas Boeing 767 undergoing maintenance at Brisbane Airport on Australia's east coast on Oct. 26, Qantas said in a statement. The entertainment system on Qantas 767s consists of individual screens on which passengers play videos, games and music on demand.

Further investigation by the engineers revealed more cut wires had been covered up, the airline said.

"Given the nature of the incident, we immediately referred it to the Australian Federal Police," Qantas said.

"There was no operational safety risk at any stage," it added.

A police statement confirmed that an investigation was under way, but said no further comment would be made.

The incident occurred days before Qantas grounded its entire fleet at the weekend and threatened to lock out unions whose rolling strikes and work bans cost the Australian airline millions of dollars in recent months.

An Australian court on Monday ordered the airline to end the lockout and unions representing engineers, pilots, baggage handlers and caterers to halt their strike action. The Qantas flight schedule was back to normal by Tuesday.

The engineers' union said it was unlikely the plane was sabotaged because of the labor dispute.

Steve Purvinas, federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio that the damage was more likely accidental. Purvinas did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Australian regulator Civil Aviation Safety Authority did not intend to mount its own investigation, spokesman Peter Gibson said.

Also Wednesday, Qantas promised to compensate the tens of thousands of passengers stranded around the world by the sudden grounding for "all reasonable losses incurred."

It also said in a statement it will soon announce "further measures as an apology to affected customers."

Qantas was responding to Australia's fair trade watchdog, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which said in a statement that the airline's policy does not yet "go far enough" to compensate affected travelers.