Qantas has not ruled out removing life rafts from some flights in a bid to save cash.
The airline is considering losing three life rafts from Boeing 737s that are not flying between Australia and New Zealand, but no decision has been made.
The plans were revealed by South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who was informed about the desperate money saving measure by pilots and cabin crew at Qantas who were concerned about the plans.
The politician is now demanding Australia’s largest airline ditch the ‘hare-brained scheme’, which it is estimated could help preserve $1 million a year in fuel.
It is not against rules to remove life rafts from 737s that do not travel more than 400 nautical miles off the coast.
However, the rafts save lives and contain radios and rations for passengers if a plane crashes or is forced to make an emergency landing.
Mr Xenophon wrote to Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce asking him to rule out the idea as a matter of urgency.
‘If a plane has to ditch off shore, every minute counts, and the savings are a joke. It might be a million a year in fuel, but they’re burning up $4 million a month with planes on tarmacs (due to issues with their Asian ventures),’ he told The Adelaide Advertiser.
Regulations demand planes should have enough rafts to carry every person on board the plane, unless they are only flying within certain parameters.
On Friday a Qantas spokeswoman told MailOnline no decisions had been made regarding changes to on-board equipment.
‘Qantas would not implement any change that would compromise safety or Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s strict standards,’ she said.
‘Any suggestion that we would compromise safety is wrong and scaremongering.’
The money saving news comes the day after the war between Qantas and Virgin Australia over capacity in the domestic market appeared to come to an end.
The two airlines have been rapidly increasing their number of domestic flights, and the size of planes used on those routes, since last year, at the expense of profit.
Qantas Domestic’s profit plunged by 74 per cent in the first half of the financial year, as the airline’s overall loss widened to $235 million.
It now plans to pull back from its capacity war with Virgin, and will add no new seats in the first three months of the 2014/15 financial year.
That will mean using smaller planes and fewer flights in non-peak travel periods than the airline had been planning.
Qantas said demand had fallen, due to weaker consumer confidence and a reduction in new mining work in Western Australia.