Quantas Airline may cut back flights

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The first, not the last...




Qantas is hit by fears over Year 2000 safety


AUSTRALIA'S flagship airline Qantas today became the first major carrier to warn about the millennium bug, saying safety concerns might cause it to cut back on flights during the crucial New Year period.

Qantas, which is 25% owned by British Airways and has a reputation as one of the world's safest airlines, said it had drawn up "contingency plans" that could lead to reductions on domestic and international schedules.

The warning is expected to trigger widespread concern among consumers and within the airline industry, and is likely to put further pressure on carriers to make sure they are completely prepared for possible problems.

It comes as cautions about the effects of the bug reach fever pitch despite massive efforts to tackle the issue. Just two weeks ago City regulators warned that as many as 12 financial institutions with offices in the Square Mile could run into serious problems and potentially be forced to shut down.

Qantas, headed by James Strong, today said it had been advised by aircraft makers Boeing, British Aerospace and Bombardier that there were no Y2K safety risks on its planes.

However, in a frank admission the company said it had been "difficult to obtain accurate and detailed information from many critical service providers".

Crucially these include airports and airspace authorities, while there are also question marks over codeshare partners, computer booking systems, manufacturers and fuel suppliers.

In a submission to the Australian Stock Exchange, it said: "Qantas is satisfied that its business is unlikely to be significantly disrupted through the Year 2000 by a failure of a critical service provider. The exceptions are those services provided by certain airports and airspace management authorities." Qantas has earmarked spending of A$135 million (#53 million) to make its systems Year 2000 compliant.

Qantas is famously proud of its excellent safety record and its planes have never been involved in a major crash.

In the film Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman's autistic character would only travel by Qantas because all other airlines had suffered at least one fatal accident.

Airlines the world over have been going to great lengths to reassure nervous passengers that it will be safe to fly on 1 January.

Chinese air bosses have been ordered to be in the air when the new millennium arrives as a mark of confidence in the safety of Chinese airlines.

The gesture is being copied by head of the US Federal Aviation Agency Jane Garvey who will be flying across America when 1 January arrives.

British Airways is spending around #100 million on the millennium bug and says it will operate a full service over the New Year period.

-- Roland (nottelling@nowhere.com), March 31, 1999

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