Australian airline Qantas has grounded its entire domestic and international fleet, throwing down an unprecedented gauntlet in front of those involved in a long running industrial dispute.
CEO Alan Joyce labelled his decision "unbelievable", a move which effectively closed the doors on 108 planes at 22 airports around the world, in one of the boldest displays of brinkmanship against an angry workforce in recent memory in any industry, let alone in the travel sector.
Staff with which the airline is in dispute - mainly pilots, baggage handlers and engineers - will also be locked out of Qantas facilities from Monday next week.
Employees are up in arms - and have hit the airline with strikes in recent months - over a major restructuring of the business which could see headcount cut by 1,000 from a total of 35,000, as well as plans to shift some of its operations to Asia.
Inevitably there has been strong reaction from the unions involved - calling Joyce "maniacal" - as well as the Australian government, with prime minister Julia Gillard expressing concerns about the long-term effect on the country's economy. Qantas has around 65% of the domestic market.
But effectively shutting down an airline is no small matter, especially when looking at the situation from a marketing and distribution perspective.
First of all, the severity and the timing of the move appears to have taken many by surprise.
This wasn't former-British Airways CEO Willie Walsh trying to wind up striking cabin crew, but a challenge of epic proportions to resolve a crisis in the most extreme way possible.
Passengers really had no idea at all that such a course of action was about to happen, with promotions being sent to frequent flyer members just over 24 hours ago. Some aircraft had already been grounded, but to pull the entire fleet from service in an attempt to force the hand of strikers is unknown in modern aviation.
One intriguing aspect to the entire saga is that flight search is still available on the Qantas website for all forward dates - visitors can search and find fares and proceed far into a booking.
The only visible sign of a problem is a one-line note on the homepage...
Meanwhile, travel agencies were still seeing availability hours after the announcement on the GDSs. Seemingly it takes a while to close off an airline's entire framework.
Here is Amadeus, for example:
Curiously, strategic partner American Airlines had quickly closed off codeshares in the system, but Qantas had not.
Presumably if the shut-down continues in the medium term, various systems will click into gear and codeshares, search feeds (on the main site and elsewhere) will eventually catch up with the reality of, well, customers having zero Qantas flights available to book.
This disconnect in the the user (and intermediary) experience is a dangerous game to play.
And, furthermore, despite the hyperbole from Qantas, and indeed the subsequent course of action by staff, travellers will be even less forgiving if it fails to bring the angry workforce to the negotiating table.
Of course, if there is irony in all this it comes in the form of Qantas celebrating an unfortunate anniversary in the next few days - on the 4th November last year the airline found itself in the middle of another PR storm when one of its Airbus A380s encountered problems shortly after take-off from Singapore Changi Airport en-route to Sydney.