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A London-bound Qantas A380 with 258 on board was forced to divert to Dubai after an engine problem occurred on Friday.

The incident happen one year since a mid-air engine blowout prompted the Australian airline to ground its entire fleet of Airbus superjumbos for nearly a month.

British writer and comedian Stephen Fry was on board flight 31 which landed safely on three engines and immediately began tweeting, turning the event into a social media hit but capping a nightmare week for Qantas.

“Bugger. Forced to land in Dubai. An engine has decided not to play,” Stephen Fry told his 3.3 million followers on Twitter.

“Not a great week for Qantas,” he added.

Qantas has just emerged from the grounding of its entire fleet over the weekend following a long-running labour dispute.

The weekend shutdown stranded almost 70,000 passengers, forcing the government and the nation’s labour tribunal to intervene and ban all further strikes at Qantas.

A London-bound Qantas A380 with 258 on board was forced to divert to Dubai after an engine problem occurred on Friday

A London-bound Qantas A380 with 258 on board was forced to divert to Dubai after an engine problem occurred on Friday

Friday’s flight, with 258 people on board, had an “oil quantity defect” in one engine which was switched off according to standard procedure, a Qantas spokeswoman in Sydney said, adding Qantas engineers would investigate the problem.

Qantas said in a letter distributed to passengers and posted on Twitter by Fry that engineers would take a number of hours to conduct “mandatory inspections.”

The airline added it was rebooking the passengers on alternative carriers.

“Qantas… have said they shut down the engine to check oil and that there was no explosion,” an aviation industry source familiar with events said.

A second source with knowledge of events said Qantas identified the glitch about 90 minutes after take off.

“If it had been really serious they would have turned back and not flown on to Dubai,” the source said.

“Engine systems are so sophisticated now they can flag any discrepancy so airlines can act.”

A Qantas Airbus A380 aircraft suffered an engine explosion on November 4 last year shortly after leaving Singapore for Sydney. It returned to Singapore and landed safely.

“The two issues are completely unrelated. This is a one-off and we will look to get the aircraft back in the skies as soon as possible,” Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said on Friday.

Each Qantas A380 is powered by four Rolls Royce engines. The carrier has 10 A380s in service and is due to take delivery of two more by the year-end. It also has two more on order and deferred the delivery schedule for six others.

Stephen Fry later tweeted that he was on a flight to London with Emirates, which operates the world’s biggest fleet of A380s but powered by engines supplied by a joint venture between General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

An analyst who wished not to be named said Stephen Fry’s Twitter feeds inflated the incident.

“This doesn’t seem like a big deal,” said the analyst.

“It seems like a precautionary measure. But the fact that it is Qantas again and on the same date as last year with Stephen Fry tweeting about it has made it a big deal.”

A Rolls Royce spokesman said the company was aware of the incident and was working closely with Qantas to provide appropriate support and technical assistance.

In last year’s engine blowout, a turbine disc disintegrated and sent supersonic shrapnel through the aircraft’s wing, severing systems and narrowly missing the cabin.

Investigations pinpointed a manufacturing fault in an oil pipe which could lead to oil leaks and ordered safety checks.

Rolls-Royce replaced or upgraded dozens of engines.

Rolls Royce engines power the A380 fleet of Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Lufthansa and China Southern.

Airbus has sold 236 A380s. By the end of September this year it had delivered 57. The four-engined double-decker airplanes sell for $375 million (234 million pounds) each at list prices.

Qantas shares closed up 2.5% at A$1.62, in line with the broader market.

Shares in Rolls-Royce fell 1 percent to 709 pence, also in line. In Paris, shares in Airbus parent EADS lagged the rest of the market, falling 1.6% to 21.31 euros.


An industrial dispute made the Australian airline Qantas to ground all international and domestic flights with immediate effect.

All employees involved in industrial action would be locked out from Monday evening and flights grounded from 06:00 GMT on Saturday.

With regard to the aircrafts currently in the air, they will complete their flights, but there will be no further departures.

Fair Work Australia, the national industrial tribunal, adjourned a hearing on the Qantas dispute on Saturday night. The tribunal – which has the power to suspend or terminate industrial action – is to reconvene later on Sunday.

It was reported that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned that the dispute could have “implications” for the national economy.

Qantas airline has been hit by a series of costly strikes. Baggage handlers, engineers and pilots have been involved in the action which the company says is costing A$15 million (US$16 million) a week.

Qantas airline issued a statement on its Facebook page saying customers booked on Qantas flights should not go to the airport until further notice. Qantas said a full refund would be available to those affected.

An industrial dispute made the Australian airline Qantas to ground all international and domestic flights with immediate effect

An industrial dispute made the Australian airline Qantas to ground all international and domestic flights with immediate effect

Relations between the unions and Qantas management started deteriorating in August after the airline announced plans for restructuring and moving some operations to Asia.

Qantas airline has a 65% share of the domestic Australian market, but has been making heavy losses on its international flights.

Qantas restructuring is expected to mean the loss of 1,000 jobs from its 35,000-strong workforce.

The disruption to Qantas flights has also affected a meeting of Commonwealth heads of government in Perth, with reports that members from 17 delegations have been stranded in the city because of the dispute.

The dispute comes on a busy travel weekend, just days before the country’s biggest horse race, the Melbourne Cup.

Anthony Albanese, Australian minister for transport said the government would take action to intervene in the dispute.

“We are very concerned about Qantas’ actions, of which we were notified only mid-afternoon, with no advance notice from Qantas at any stage,” Anthony Albanese said.

“The government is making an urgent application to Fair Work Australia to terminate all industrial action at Qantas. This will be aimed at both actions by unions and by Qantas management.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced the grounding of the airline on Saturday: “The airline will be grounded as long as it takes to reach a conclusion on this.”

Alan Joyce said that he would not take “the easy way out” and agree to union demands.

“That would destroy Qantas in the long term.

“I’m actually taking the bold decision, an unbelievable decision, a very hard decision, to ground this airline.”

Alan Joyce said he made the decision early Saturday and then gained the approval of the Qantas board.

“We are locking out until the unions withdraw their extreme claim and reach an agreement with us,” he said.

“This is the fastest way to ensure the airline gets back in the air.

“They are trashing our strategy and our brand.

“They must decide just how badly they want to hurt Qantas, their members… and the travelling public.”

The Australian pilots association criticized the grounding.

“It’s unprecedented and really it has hijacked the nation. It really has put everyone on notice and… it’s forcing the government’s hand on this,” Barry Jackson of the Australian and International Pilots Association told Sky News.

“We really need to address this sooner rather than later and get the aircraft back in the air.”

Qantas said as of 04:00 GMT on Saturday, there were 64 aircraft in the air – 36 domestic and 28 international – carrying more than 7,000 passengers. In total, 108 aircraft will be grounded in 22 airports around the world.

Qantas also said 13,305 passengers were booked to travel on its planes from overseas airports to Australia in the next 24 hours. About 1,310 international passengers may be at international airports now waiting for their flights to depart.

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