31/10/2011 02:26 GMT | Updated 30/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Qantas: Take-Off Hopes For Britons Stranded In Australia

Frustrated Britons whose travel plans were hit by an industrial row could take to the air after Qantas was cleared to resume flights following the grounding of its fleet.

The Australian government ordered an arbitration hearing after Qantas grounded all of its aircraft on Saturday, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded worldwide.

In a victory for the airline, Fair Work Australia issued the emergency ruling, ordering the unions to return to the negotiating table and come to an agreement within 21 days or face binding arbitration.

The first of the grounded planes were preparing to return to the sky as Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority cleared the airline to resume flying.

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."

On its website, the company apologised for the inconvenience it had caused, and told passengers: "Please be advised that some flights may be delayed."

Heathrow Airport, where a Qantas flight for Singapore and Sydney is scheduled to leave, urged passengers to check the status of Qantas flights with the airline before setting off.

In the last few weeks, workers have staged strikes and refused overtime work over concerns that some of the airline's 35,000 jobs would be moved overseas. Up to 70,000 passengers were affected when the airline grounded 108 planes at 22 airports on Saturday.

The strikes have cost the airline 15 million Australian dollars (£10 million) a week.

Some aviation experts said the surprise grounding of planes has hurt the reputation of Australia's flag carrier around the world. Nevertheless, Qantas shares jumped almost 5% to 1.62 Australian dollars (£1.07) today on the stock exchange in Sydney.