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Qantas IT system failure sent cargo operations into disarray

Qantas' freight division faced a major IT nightmare last week, throwing cargo operations into chaos.
Qantas' freight division faced a major IT nightmare last week, throwing cargo operations into chaos.

Qantas’ freight division faced a major IT nightmare last week, throwing cargo operations into chaos. 

The airline’s attempt to transition to a new, fully integrated cloud-based management system on September 24 backfired, causing significant disruptions.

Picking up the pieces

The malfunction forced Qantas to prioritize the movement of essential supplies, including medical and human remains. However, transporting perishable items like fruits and flowers suffered considerable setbacks.

It resorted to manual processing of shipments due to the IT system failure, leading to backlogs at major airports such as Sydney and Melbourne. While the domestic backlog has been cleared, international freight services continue to experience delays.

This delay resulted in significant losses for businesses dealing in fresh produce, flowers, live animals, and pharmaceuticals.

Qantas on the mend

A Qantas spokesperson acknowledges customers’ frustration, assuring that the company is working to resolve the situation. Despite regular updates on their website and direct communication with customers, the impact has been significant.

“We are working around the clock to make sure all outstanding items get where they need to go as quickly as possible,” says the spokesperson. “The domestic backlog has now been cleared, but international freight services are still experiencing some delays. We appreciate this has been really frustrating for customers and we are sorry that this outage impacted them over the past couple of weeks. We’ve been posting regular website updates and getting in touch with customers directly.”

Qantas, one of Australia’s major container terminal operators, handles about 25 percent of the nation’s inbound airfreight, making the system outage’s impact widespread and significant.

The incident has shed light on the lesser-publicized issues faced by cargo operations, mirroring the challenges encountered by passenger services.

IT blunder

The Age details particular anecdotes from customers and companies affected by the system malfunction. 

Australian Horticultural Exporters and Importers Association chairman Joe Saina, labels the situation a “monumental stuff-up”. He emphasizes the financial toll it took on businesses. 

Freight forwarding companies, such as Apollo Global Logistics, bore the brunt of the chaos. The company’s owner Joe Carbone, described the situation as “an absolute disaster”. 

Cargo intended for just-in-time delivery piled up at airports, causing inefficiencies and compounding the problem. The delays not only disrupted established supply chains but also led to increased costs for importers already paying high airfreight expenses.

Paul Zalai, director of Freight & Trade Alliance, condemns Qantas’ attempts to process large cargo volumes as “hopelessly flawed manually”. He highlights that the delays had cost the industry hundreds of thousands of dollars, causing members to fail to meet contractual delivery deadlines with retailers and customers.

Even pets were not spared from the debacle. AFL star Nathan Broad, and his wife Tayla revealed on social media that Qantas left their French bulldog at Melbourne Airport for nine hours after a trip from Perth.

While Qantas’ partnership with Australia Post raised concerns about delivery disruptions, a spokesperson for Australia Post stated that the delays were largely resolved. The fallout from Qantas Freight’s operational breakdown has underscored the far-reaching consequences of such disruptions in global logistics.

About the author

Marce has contributed tech to various prominent publications since 2018, offering a transparent perspective into the tech industry and its effects on its users. She now spends her time developing insightful content for industry players. You know, when she's not gaming or geeking out about the latest fad.

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