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Irish boss under fire for Qantas shutdown

QANTAS Airways returned to normal service today -- after a major gamble by Dublin-born CEO Alan Joyce to ground flights.

The Australian carrier is now believed to be ready to cut fares to win back passengers after its showdown with unions caused international travel chaos and left almost 70,000 travellers stranded.

Qantas had grounded its global fleet at the weekend in a bid to force the unions' hand.

The controversial plan was spearheaded by Joyce (pictured), the 44- year-old chief of the airline.

The Guinness-drinking Trinity graduate has been heavily criticised in Australia for the move, which has been dubbed a "shock and awe" strategy.

He has even received death threats.


The tactic succeeded in spurring local authorities to order an end to all industrial action yesterday and should ensure a speedy resolution, but it also hurt the Qantas brand and left many passengers vowing to shun the airline in future.

Major rival Singapore Airlines Ltd (SIA), which competes with Qantas, said its bookings had been strong since the Qantas grounding.

Aviation and brand experts say Qantas has a huge job to restore confidence in its brand, which has traditionally stood for safety and reliability.

"Qantas will cut prices across its international and domestic network, offer grounded passengers special promotional deals, and take out one of the biggest national advertising campaigns in its 90-year history in a bid to win back disenchanted travellers in the lead-up to the peak Christmas period," the Australian Financial Review said. A Qantas spokeswoman described the newspaper report as speculation.

However Mr Joyce won support from AirAsia Bhd CEO Tony Fernandes, who said the move to ground the fleet was about survival.

"You have to salute Alan Joyce for doing what he's doing. This is not about workers versus management. It's about survival in the modern world," Mr Fernandes said on Twitter.