Australia’s Qantas Airways grounded its entire fleet on Saturday over a bitter labour dispute in an unprecedented move that prompted the government to warn it feared for the airline’s future and would seek action to end the dispute. EDITOR’S CHOICE Strikes cost A$15m-a week in lost sales - Oct-28 US airlines earnings hit by fuel costs - Oct-27 Lufthansa scales back passenger forecasts - Oct-27 Virgin eyes tie-up with Etihad on BMI - Oct-14 Qantas overhauls lossmaking international operations - Aug-16 Qantas said it would lock out all employees from Monday night in a dispute affecting 70,000 passengers and 600 flights on one of the country’s biggest travel weekends. The grounding does not affect Qantas’ budget airline Jetstar or code-share flights on other airlines. Passengers will get a full refund for flights cancelled due to the industrial action, Qantas said on its website. Customers can also rebook their flights for a later date. The announcement took passengers and the government by surprise, embarrassing Prime Minister Julia Gillard who was hosting a Commonwealth leaders summit in Perth. Some of those leaders are booked to fly home on Sunday with Qantas. Unions, from pilots to caterers, have taken strike action since September over pay and opposing Qantas plans to cut its soaring costs, as it looks at setting up two new airlines in Asia and cutting back financially draining long-haul flights. “They are trashing our strategy and our brand. They are deliberately destabilising the company. Customers are now fleeing from us,” Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said.