Passengers remain in limbo

Qantas says its fleet will remain grounded until at least noon today and staff will be locked out as the airline's dispute with the unions continues.

''As soon as Fair Work Australia make a judgment we'll make a decision [on flights],'' a spokeswoman said.

A second round of emergency hearings by Fair Work Australia in Melbourne dragged into last night without a resolution.

Qantas urged passengers to keep updated via Facebook, Twitter and the company's website.

Tens of thousands of Qantas passengers remain stranded in Australia and around the world.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was yesterday relying on Fair Work Australia to resolve the dispute that has grounded 108 planes and affected almost 80,000 passengers in 22 airports around the world at an estimated cost of $20 million a day to the national carrier.


''The Government ... is seeking to bring industrial action to an end and to have the dispute resolved,'' Ms Gillard said before flying home from Perth last night while her senior ministers met in Canberra awaiting a decision.

The ACT Government offered ''any support required'' to Canberra Airport yesterday, as it remained in limbo and the travel plans of thousands of passengers unravelled.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher warned that the dispute had the capacity to hurt the territory's businesses, and threw her Government's support behind the Federal Government's intervention in the dispute.

''If the Qantas fleet remains grounded for any length of time it will certainly have an impact on Canberra tourism and business,'' she said.

Yesterday's Fair Work Australia hearing was told the grounding was costing tens of millions each hour.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce defended his decision to ground the company's fleet.

In the face of bitter criticism over the grounding, which was announced the day after his 71per cent pay rise was confirmed, Mr Joyce told ABC 24, ''I've taken these tough decisions because I think it's the right thing to do.''

Ivan Colhoun from ANZ Research said the dispute could have serious implications for Australia's tourism industry and associated services.

In Canberra, an estimated 65per cent of the 10,000 to 12,000 passengers use Qantas flights.

While QantasLink continues to carry passengers, the Qantas terminal at Canberra was eerily quiet yesterday.

According to a report published earlier this month, Canberra Airport drives more than 7per cent of Canberra's economic activity, and generates or enables almost 12,500 jobs.

Managing director Stephen Byron said the airport took a fee for each Qantas flight that landed at Canberra, meaning the grounding decision would result in a loss of ''significant'' revenue.

He said Virgin was scheduling extra flights, with five additional flights offered yesterday.

Canberra Convention Bureau chief executive Robyn Hendry said the snap announcement of the Qantas grounding could not have been made at a worse time.

''November would be one of the busiest months for conventions, and they're often held to coincide with Parliamentary sessions in Canberra.

''And Qantas has the lion's share of the market - we have very few alternatives here.''

The bureau's research shows delegates spend, on average, more than $460 a day in Canberra on hospitality and travel, typically staying for two days longer than their three-day business trip.

''It's possibly the worst time of year this could happen,'' she said.

Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon attacked the airline for escalating the situation.

''Qantas has made a decision to ground its airline, affecting 80,000 passengers, when its workforce has no industrial action planned across the country,'' he said.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the grounding was avoidable.

''This has stranded tens of thousands of passengers and will cause even more chaos tomorrow if he doesn't reverse this decision,'' he said.

''The cost to the Australian economy and to Qantas' reputation cannot be measured.''

QantasLink, Jetstar, Jetconnect services, and freight services continue to operate as normal.

But with travel plans thrown into chaos, some have been getting creative with their alternate arrangements.

Australian company Jayride has been matching grounded travellers with car pools and buses.

Co-founder Rod Bishop said he had seen a 30-50per cent rise in traffic to his website since the Qantas announcement.

Despite predictions Greyhound Australia and Murrays bus services would be deluged by stranded customers, neither company reached capacity yesterday.

Greyhound Australia chief operating officer Tony Hopkins said the coach company was monitoring the situation every 15 minutes, and would increase services if necessary.

with AAP