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The entire Qantas fleet is grounded as the Australian airline battles with labor unions.

It's all the unions' fault, the airline says in its official statement on the dispute. The stoppage is blamed on "damaging industrial action" by the three unions representing pilots, engineers, and other workers, Global Post reports. That's corporate P.R. speak for an intractable dispute with unions over wages.

But behind the facade of that dry rhetoric is an "unbelievable decision," the company's CEO conceded. Qantas canceled more than 100 flights on Saturday, forcing roughly 80,000 travelers to alter travel plans. Here's the view from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

A Greens staff member, Tim Hollo, was on board a Qantas aircraft when the grounding happened.

He says the captain told passengers he did not know what was happening.

"Eventually he said 'still don't know what's happening but you can turn your mobile phones on while we wait'," he said.

"A few of us on the plane switched on Twitter and found out that [Qantas CEO Alan] Joyce had grounded the entire fleet, shortly afterwards the captain told us to get off and wait.

"And about 20 minutes after that they told us all to leave the airport because there weren't going to be any flights."

The labor dispute stems from the airline's new expansion in Asia, and attention to the high compensation of executives like Joyce, Global Post reports.

In August, Joyce reportedly announced a major restructuring of Qantas that included establishing two new subsidiary carriers in Asia, using cheaper labor, and 1,000 job losses.

The unions are insisting on equal pay and conditions for their new Asia-based coworkers, a demand Joyce claims will kill the airline

Yes, that's the same Alan Joyce who only this week was granted a 71 percent bonus by Qantas shareholders, taking his total salary to $5 million a year. But that's neither here nor there. 

The thought of Qantas and not flying sounds familiar. Perhaps the idea for a quirky new buddy picture is about to be born among frustrated travelers in Australia. Until then, we have Rain Man.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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