CANBERRA, Australia -- An Australian court early today ended the strikes and employee lockout that abruptly grounded Qantas Airways and stranded tens of thousands of passengers worldwide, and the airline said it could fly again today if regulators approve.
"We will be getting our aircraft back up in the air as soon as we possibly can," CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement. Regulatory approval was required, and the airline said the flight schedule would be limited.
The arbitration court heard more than 14 hours of testimony from the airline, the Australian government and unions after the government called the emergency hearing. Workers have held rolling strikes and refused overtime work for weeks out of worry that some of Qantas' 35,000 jobs would be moved overseas in a restructing plan.
The unions wanted a temporary suspension of the employee lockout, but the airline said the strikes had been too devastating and it needed certainty to continue operating.
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Tribunal President Geoffrey Giudice said the panel decided a temporary suspension would still risk Qantas' grounding its fleet in the future and would not protect the tourism and aviation industry from damage.
Qantas is the largest of Australia's four national domestic airlines, and the grounding affected 108 planes in 22 countries.