Union officials have warned that any move by Qantas to shift operations offshore and set up a premium airline in Asia will provoke a community backlash.
Australian and International Pilots Association president Barry Jackson said reports that Qantas wanted to base much of the airline in Asia would set off alarm bells in the community.
“Australians want Qantas, not ‘Qantasia’,” he said. “The Qantas Sale Act of 1992 was designed specifically to prevent this sort of move happening. Obviously, Qantas’s lawyers believe they’ve found a tricky way around it, so they are now looking at how best to pack the business up out of Australia and into Southeast Asia.”
Qantas said yesterday reports it was about to set up a premium airline in Singapore were “purely speculative” and no decision had been made. Qantas also rejected claims it had sought a licence to operate an airline in Malaysia as it tries to find a way to reduce costs at its flagging mainline international operations and reverse recent falls in its share of the overseas passenger market.
The airline is known to be looking at setting up an Asian hub for its premium operations as part of a review of its international business by a project team headed by executive Lesley Grant.
The underperforming international unit has been hit by an increase in competition from premium carriers such as Emirates as well as by the strong growth of low-cost carriers.
Qantas officials yesterday denied they had made a decision to set up a 20-aircraft premium carrier in Singapore but stopped short of denying they were looking at the concept in Asia.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has expressed a desire to develop a hub in China.
Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said the airline would not be position to discuss its plans until the end of the year.