British passengers stranded by the decision of Australian airline Qantas to ground its entire fleet were saved today as planes prepared to return to the sky.
Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority is expected to clear the airline to resume flying within hours.
An industrial court in Melbourne ruled that Qantas had 21 days to sort out its dispute with three unions over jobs and wages, and that strike action should not continue in the meantime.
The shock move by Qantas to ground its 108-strong fleet on Saturday led to the cancellation of 600 flights, with honeymooners among the 70,000 passengers affected worldwide.
In a victory for Qantas, Fair Work Australia yesterday issued the emergency ruling, ordering the unions to return to the negotiating table and come to an agreement.
One passenger, Jackie Sheridan, was left in tears at Perth airport when she realised she would not be able to get to Northern Ireland in time for her brother’s funeral.
Chris Crulley, 25, from Newcastle, was on a plane taxiing on the runway at Sydney when the pilot told passengers he had to return to the terminal to ‘take an important phone call’.
Roger Johnstone, 45, from Birmingham, who had been visiting relatives in Perth and was due to fly back to Britain yesterday, said he had been warned, ‘it could be some time before we’re able to fly’.
It was only after an emergency 12-hour court hearing yesterday that the dispute between Qantas and unions was suspended.
The Australian government ordered the arbitration hearing after tens of thousands of passengers were left stranded worldwide.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said: 'The important thing is that all industrial action is now over and we have a certainty.
'We will be returning to business as usual over the next 24 hours.'